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Lough Derg where local tourism operators are seeking financial support to purchase personal protective equipment. Photograph by John Kelly

Killaloe hotelier seeks government support for tourism

TOURISM-related businesses need financial support for the purchase of personal protective equipment and signage, according to a local hotelier.

Lakeside Hotel general manager, Eoin Little believes that government grants are needed to defray the cost of adjusting tourism premises physically because this expenditure will only have a temporary benefit and will not generate any additional revenue.

The Lough Derg Marketing Group member has proposed the government should consider reducing VAT rates from 13.5% to about 5% for at least a year as a Covid-19 measure to give businesses a timely boost.

He expects most operators in the hospitality sector will do well to break even this year.

He believes the government has done an excellent job managing the pandemic to date and stressed tourism operators will follow guidelines to the letter of the law to protect staff and guests.

The Lough Derg Marketing Group will continue to promote Lough Derg for holiday makers during the pandemic because it is low density destination and there is loads of space to enjoy outdoor activities on the water or land such as walks.

Mr Little praised Fáilte Ireland’s decision to provide 30 online training sessions in hospitality for employees in their own homes.

He stresses public trust in businesses to apply appropriate hygiene control and cleaning is paramount for patrons to return to the hospitality trade.

He believes it is important the customer sees tourism operators applying all the necessary measures to keep them safe to get people to return to travelling again.

“A lot of businesses will consider whether or not they will re-open. We will follow all government guidelines. The two metre social distancing guideline is unworkable,” he said.

The hotel hosts a lot of weddings every year and some of these have been deferred until next year.

Before the hotel shut, it has up to 90 employees on its book and about 60 of these were full time staff.

Having examined the Lakeside Hotel, he believes the two metre guideline is unworkable in some locations, despite the fact the hotel has a lot more space and bigger rooms than much smaller premises.

The bar generates the most revenue in the Lakeside and applying a two metre social distance guideline would reduce capacity to just 30%, making it economically unviable.

While the Lakeside could open its restaurant on June 29, Mr Little feels they will probably wait until July 20 when the whole hotel can re-open.

“Most places around the lake have small buildings. If a place could accommodate 60 can now only cater for 15 or 20, it is not commercially viable. The World Health Organisation are recommending one metre,” he said.

Mr Little expressed concern the government still hasn’t clarified guidelines about the number of people permitted to attend a wedding and precise figures for bedroom occupancy.

He called on the government to provide a bedroom occupancy figure, which can then reviewed regularly and be increased a few weeks later if transmission rates of the virus remain low.

“If I fill the Lakeside and the government decide the occupancy rate is 50%, I have to ring back half my guests and say they can’t come. It is a hard predicament for a business that is closed for three or four months,” he explained.

 

Dan Danaher

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