Cork hoteliers are cautiously optimistic as sector reopens

Cork hoteliers are cautiously optimistic as sector reopens

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D., Paul Kelly, CEO, Fáilte Ireland in the Iveagh Garden Hotel welcome the start of the reopening of the tourism and hospitality sector including this week’s resumption of tourism accommodation. The reopening of hotels, restaurants and services will help inject an estimated €1 billion extra into the economy. Pic: Julien Behal

Cork hoteliers welcomed back guests today for the first time in months under the Government’s easing of restrictions.

Catherine Martin, the tourism minister, welcomed the start of the reopening of the tourism and hospitality sector.

Ms Martin said that there was “cause for cautious optimism as the rollout of the vaccination programme gathers pace” and that the reopening of the tourism and hospitality sector “represents a further important step in the Covid-19 resilience and recovery plan”.

She said that she was acutely aware of the importance of international visitors and that the Government “remains committed to supporting tourism” and has published a national economic recovery plan.

The family-owned and run Fernhill House Hotel and Gardens in Clonakilty is set to open its doors and “get back to creating wonderful experiences for our guests and friends”.

Part-proprietor Michael O’Neill, who runs the business with his parents and siblings, said that the grounds have been the family home and have been shared for generations with their guests, ever since his grandmother Mary first opened the doors in the 1960s.

Part-proprietor of Fernhill House Hotel in Clonakilty Michael O’Neill says the pandemic has inspired those in the hospitality industry to improve their businesses.
Part-proprietor of Fernhill House Hotel in Clonakilty Michael O’Neill says the pandemic has inspired those in the hospitality industry to improve their businesses.

The 27-bedroom country estate has multiple outdoor dining options, including a new outdoor dining terrace, and plenty of space indoors for social distancing.

Mr O’Neill said that the hotel’s location in West Cork has meant it was very popular for staycations again this year and the lockdown would give people more of a grá for Ireland.

He said the pandemic had inspired those in the hospitality industry to improve their businesses and that Fernhill had upgraded bedrooms, added a new restaurant, improved its wedding experience, introduced new menus and hired new employees.

“Nearly every hospitality business is making these improvements so I am sure that the Irish céad míle fáilte will go to new heights,” he said.

Despite the huge toll that the pandemic has taken on the tourism sector, Fáilte Ireland estimates that the reopening will provide a significant cash boost to the economy.

According to economic analysis provided by Fáilte Ireland, when restrictions eased last summer, the economy saw a return of €843m from domestic holiday spend in Q3 — up 52% on the previous period in 2019.

Based on this, an earlier reopening and a prolonged expanded easing of restrictions this year for the tourism and hospitality sector has the potential to generate up to €1bn in the coming months for the economy.

Eoin Daly, general manager of The Address Cork in the city, said he was positive about the future of hospitality and that if Covid-19 had taught people anything, it was to “take nothing for granted”.

“I think it will put people in the mindset that there is an opportunity to travel within your own country and even within your own county.

“I’d be very hopeful and, as an industry, I’d be very positive about it because employment will be readily available to anyone who wants it in the next few years. It’s a growing industry and I think it will continue to grow.

“After conversations with fellow hoteliers around the city, we’re all very positive and all upped our game. It’s a win-win for any guest that stays with us or any other hotel. They’ve all taken this opportunity to improve their product,” he said.

Mr Daly and his team are looking forward to welcoming guests back to the hotel after a “very hard 12 months

of being in an empty building, where for three months of that 12 you got to see customers on a large-scale basis”.

“Everything, since we closed in January, has been gearing up to today,” he said.He said that the summer is looking “very strong” for bookings and that this Friday through to Sunday the hotel is close to full each night, with a busy first day of reopening also expected.

The Metropole Hotel general manager Roger Russell highlighted that Government supports would need to continue, despite the reopening of the industry.

Roger Russell, general manager, at the Metropole Hotel in Cork City, has said that Government supports will need to continue as ‘there’s challenging times ahead’.	Picture: Denis Minihane
Roger Russell, general manager, at the Metropole Hotel in Cork City, has said that Government supports will need to continue as ‘there’s challenging times ahead’. Picture: Denis Minihane

“Just because we’ve started to open up doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods in terms of Government support. We are going to need continued Government support going forward. It’s not a case of restrictions having opened up, we’re back to business levels that can sustain the business,” he said.

While bookings have picked up, they are predominantly weekend bookings as “people are still waiting to see what’s going to happen,” he said.

“I think there’s challenging times ahead and the sooner we can welcome back our international guests the better.

“The hospitality industry in Ireland is a wonderful product. We have some fantastic people working in the industry, people who really care and work extremely hard every day so, from that point of view, the industry is in a good place but there are very challenging times ahead,” he said.

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