A Dublin hotelier has described the situation the tourism and hospitality sector currently finds itself in as “intolerable”, adding that allowing hotels to open for December will be crucial for the survival of the industry.
Paul Gallagher, who owns Buswells Hotel in Dublin City Centre, told BreakingNews.ie: “It's an impossible situation. We don't know what we're going to be expected to do on December 2nd.”
Over 100,000 jobs have already been lost in the tourism industry as a result of Covid-19 and 100,000 more are in jeopardy.
Mr Gallagher said he finds it difficult to contact staff who have been temporarily laid off as it is impossible to tell them if they will be again in January.
“I haven't spoken to the staff who have been laid off so there's a couple of issues for me. One is I don't know what level we're going to reopen at and if I am allowed to reopen I don't know at what stage I'm going to know, to contact my staff to see if they're available will be challenging in itself because I don't know if my business is going to be sustainable in January, so I may have to lay off again.
“The difficulty with that is I need to be up front and frank with them that if they're coming back, it may only be for three or four weeks because there's a guillotine on the PUP payment.
“The PUP payment that staff are currently on has a max of €350, but the guillotine on that is December 31st. If I laid off a member of staff on January 1st, they would go on to the €203 Jobseeker's allowance level. There's a huge difficulty there, I can't have a New Year's Eve occupancy in the hotel and service those customers on New Year's Day without jeopardising the support my staff will need because I'm most likely going to have to lay them all off in January.”
He added: “It's intolerable really. People in retail, the entertainment sector and hotel and tourism sectors have been disproportionately affected.
“What is their future? I couldn't possibly tell you what size our industry will be when we manage to reopen again. It may be four or five years to recovery so many of those staff may never work in hospitality or tourism again.”
The Irish Hotels Federation has called on the Government to allow cross-county travel for hotels, even if the country returns to Level 3 restrictions.
“Dublin hotels rely massively on non-Dublin customers. Many who are likely to occupy a room are likely to come from outside the Dublin region, likewise with country hotels who rely on Dubliners to fill rooms in the festive season.
“If cross-county travel is not allowed it will present huge problems. If I can't open the front door of my hotel, I won't be opening my hotel.”
If hotels aren’t allowed non residents for the 4 weeks of December then this hotel will not reopen. Level 3, 4 and 5 are much the same thing in hotels, front door still closed with no viable business on which I can bring back my staff! @IHFcomms @Irishtourismind @RAI_ie
— Paul Gallagher (@PaulGall186) November 19, 2020
“To be told on December 1st at tea time by the Taoiseach that you can open on December 2nd, that won't allow us to open.
“We won't have any staff, we won't have any stock, we won't have any customers.
“They've already nuanced Level 5 to allow for weddings. What we're saying is 'look, if you don't allow hotels and restaurants to do indoor dining, where do you think people are going to socialise?'
“They're going to socialise around a dinner table in a home. Restaurants and hotels have to follow very strict guidelines for Covid. We have unannounced inspections from a variety of state agencies. That is not the same for a home setting. There's only so much yo-yoing this industry can take before it is fatally wounded.”