Hospitality sector 'set for job losses on massive scale'

While you can book a hotel room in Northern Ireland from next month,there is no indicative dates as to when you can check in
Gary McDonald Business Editor

HOSPITALITY chiefs claim the Executive's decision to allow hotels in the north to take advance bookings "at risk" from June 8 but with no definitive dates is "causing confusion - and could lead to job losses on a massive scale".

And they've warned: “We simply cannot remain closed beyond the end of July. It's basic economics: no money in means no money to pay wages.”

Dependent on approval at an Executive meeting next Thursday, Northern Ireland will move into some parts of step two of its Pathway to Recovery from the following Monday.

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It will see the reopening of some non-essential stores and retail outlets accessed directly from the street or via retail parks.

These include household, electrical, computer, phones and furniture retailers, alongside businesses involved with car/vehicle/agricultural/machinery sales.

But while hotels, B&B, self-catering and caravan parks can start accepting reservations, there is still no indicative date as to when the bookings can be fulfilled.

“The Executive clearly recognises that hospitality has been hardest hit, but the anticipated announcement that businesses must pay 20 per cent of the furlough cost, compounded by this lack of dates on bookings, leaves the sector with no option but to start redundancy processes," Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill warned.

“Hospitality businesses simply have no money to pay staff when the furlough is reduced, and have borrowed heavily just to last this long. We cannot remain closed beyond the end of July.

“We now expect to see tens of thousands of redundancy notices to be issued in the coming weeks- a situation we are desperate to avoid. Furloughing only preserves jobs.They are only saved when we reopen."

He added: “We appeal to ministers to please give us a date to reopen and work with us to agree the safety procedures. It would be unforgivable to see job losses on a massive scale, and a waste of all the support we have been given to date.”

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault said: "Taking a hotel booking on an 'on spec' basis without any agreed pathway is far from ideal and makes it difficult to plan, budget and set guidelines. It simply adds to the confusion."

Retail bosses have welcomed the steps towards a wider reopening, but insisted the longer shops remain closed, the harder it will be for them to return.

Industry chiefs have also written to ministers urging them to establish a High Street and Retail Advisory group to ensure the Executive can move forward with a reopening roadmap which is fully in line with medical advice.

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