Leading article

Hotel reopening date a welcome step forward

While the ramifications of coronavirus are being felt throughout the economy, there is particular concern over the longer term impact on the hospitality and tourism sectors.

These are businesses that have been severely affected from the outset of lockdown. All restaurants, bars and hotels were told to close and saw their trade disappear virtually overnight.

The government-backed furlough scheme has provided a vital lifeline to employees but there are real fears that many establishments will not return and a significant number of jobs will be lost.

Some restaurants have been creative, using their skills to offer takeaway meals, but social distancing requirements will present obvious difficulties for businesses that are based on high volumes of customers in enclosed settings.

The executive has been reluctant to put a time scale on its five step roadmap out of lockdown and this has given ministers flexibility because ultimately we should only be easing measures when it is safe to do so.

But this has also led to understandable frustration in sectors which need to plan for eventual reopening.

Last Thursday the executive told hotels they could take bookings from June 8 without giving any idea when they might be able to accept customers, which was not a sustainable position.

However, clarity was finally provided on Monday when economy minister Diane Dodds said hotels, guesthouses and holiday parks could reopen on July 20 if the infection rate remained manageable.

There is a logic to this date as it is in line with the target set in the Republic for hotels to open their doors again.

Even with a date on the horizon, the situation facing the sector is challenging and questions remain about what facilities guests will be allowed to use.

Bar, cafe and restaurant owners are also desperate to get back to business but it is envisaged they will be among the last to open under the executive's plan.

Overriding every step out of lockdown is the recognition that we must remain cautious and work hard to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The sight of hundreds of people packed onto beaches in recent days has sparked considerable alarm.

What we do not want is for the irresponsible behaviour of a few to cause a rise in cases in the weeks ahead.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Leading article