Restaurant and hotel owners speak out on uncertainty in coming weeks – .

Restaurant and hotel owners speak out on uncertainty in coming weeks – .

In normal years, December would have been one of the busiest months for hospitality, with thousands of people flocking to restaurants and hotels across Northern Ireland for their Christmas celebrations.
But with the warning that there could be further Covid restrictions in the coming days, many hotel outlets face an uncertain few weeks.

In particular, this uncertainty is expected to have a huge impact on Christmas celebrations, which are often booked weeks in advance.

Fearing further restrictions, restaurants and hotels have reported that customers are delaying booking Christmas holidays until there is more certainty.

In a statement shared with Belfast Live, Hospitality Ulster called on the executive and its ministers to cut back on comments regarding hospitality and socializing this Christmas as businesses saw a sharp drop in attendance and thousands of canceled reservations.

Speaking on this, Colin Neill, Managing Director of Hospitality Ulster, said: “The past week has been catastrophic for the industry as we have seen a significant drop in attendance and thousands of cancellations. for the Christmas period. hospitality sector that relies on commerce during the festive months to accompany them through the lean months of the New Year.

Colin Neill

Paula Keane, general manager of the Ivanhoe Hotel in Carryduff, said there had been “quite a few cancellations” recently due to uncertainty surrounding the restrictions.

She told us: “Christmas parties and party nights are held here, and we always follow previous regulations that you are only allowed a limited number of people in the room, so much for the customers’ confidence. than for anything else.

“But there have been quite a few cancellations, especially after Robin Swann said there could be another lockdown over Christmas.

“There were cancellations right after that because people are clearly not sure what’s going on. When it comes to paying down payments or making big bookings, they won’t commit if they don’t know what the situation will be. line. So there were a lot fewer bookings at Christmas. ”

She added: “There is a lot of uncertainty. There are customers who ask how the restaurant will be set up, customers who book at the last minute because they are afraid to book in advance. All you can do is try to assure people that the rules are being followed, but the numbers are definitely down from previous years. It’s tough enough for the industry, because we were bleeding so much money while we were closed, and now we’re just trying to get some of that back.

“Then what made it all worse is that in addition to Track & Trace – which is good – we have to do Covid passports. You almost have to hire someone now just to take on this role. And with an industry that’s already stretched, it’s tough. We get the impression that the executive is tougher on the hotel industry than anywhere else. ”

Paula said the hospitality industry had taken steps to ensure safety, but the uncertainty around Christmas made things very difficult.

“People phone to make reservations but they ask questions about the coming weeks and the worst part for us is that we cannot give them firm answers. All of this is thrown at us, and we are scrambling to find out what the regulations are, what measures are going to be put in place. Then we’ll see and we’ll do our best. We cannot do more than that. ”

Elsewhere, some restaurants have taken up the challenges posed by containment and Covid regulations by adapting their points of sale.

Bob McCoubrey, owner of Morne Seafood Bar in Belfast city center, said: “We never really did the Christmas turkey and ham dinners so we weren’t affected by the cancellations of holidays.

Outdoor dining room at Morne Seafood Bar

He added that the company had generated interest in its outdoor seating area, built during the lockdown in 2020.

He continued, “We actually picked up corporate reservations for our outdoor space because that is considered a safe option. “

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