Dublin travel restrictions: ‘We’ve lost €36,000 in bookings’
For Catherine Dundon, the questions started soon after the Government’s announcement on Tuesday.
“Guests have been ringing asking us what they should do,” she says. “‘Are we still welcome? Should we travel? Will we stay put?’ But we’re just looking at the very same advice as they’re looking at.”
Her Dunbrody Country House Hotel, located on the Hook Peninsula in Co Wexford, is a popular spot for holidaymakers from Dublin and its surrounds. The 22 rooms at the Georgian house were full for this coming weekend, until the Government announced that people in Dublin should limit travel outside the county.
We take the restrictions extremely seriously, for the health of ourselves and for staff and customers
Dundon says she spent Wednesday morning getting back to customers about cancellations. However, there haven’t been as many cancellations as she expected. When the localised lockdown was announced for Kildare, Laois and Offaly, the hotel lost 30 per cent of its bookings, but at least it “knew exactly” where it stood, she says. “Now, it’s not clear for us or the guests.”
Dundon says the latest restrictions result in a “grey area” for guests and hosts alike. “We take the restrictions extremely seriously, for the health of ourselves and for staff and customers. But this confusion means it’s not one way or the other and we’re not going to penalise customers for that and tell them to stay away.
“People are also worried that they will be charged for being responsible [and cancelling].”
The Irish Hotels Federation described the Government’s five-level plan as a ‘grim outlook’ for tourism
Bill Kelly, the fourth generation to run his family’s resort hotel in Rosslare, is equally frustrated about the situation. “Since yesterday we’ve had a lot of cancellations – we’ve lost €36,000 in bookings. It’s very difficult to plan for, or to try to reorganise staff in response to that.”
He says the Government announcement was “wishy-washy” and leaves hoteliers in a tricky position. “It means customers are looking for clarity from us and I don’t think that’s a fair position for a business to be put in. It’s a very confused message.”
The prospect of tighter restrictions on movement for people in Dublin is “extremely worrying” for Kelly, who estimates 40 per cent of his trade comes from the capital. “It’s a crucial market for regional hotels,” he says.
The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) described the Government’s five-level plan as a “grim outlook” for tourism. At the beginning of the year, tourism supported 270,000 direct and indirect jobs, it said. An estimated 100,000 jobs have been lost so far this year and a further 100,000 are now at “imminent risk” due to booking levels plummeting, according to the IHF.
I think it’s a Mickey Mouse attempt. If you’re really serious about helping tourism, I don’t think that does it
While there are major fears ahead of the winter, with the IHF reporting that Wexford specifically faces a loss of 6,900 tourism jobs over the coming weeks, there are also hopes a solution can be found – but neither Dundon nor Kelly think it will come from the Government’s Stay and Spend scheme.
This scheme allows a tax credit for up to €125 on expenditure including accommodation, food and non-alcoholic drink, with €250 available for couples who are jointly assessed by Revenue. It kicks in next month, but Dundon says Dunbrody House hasn’t seen it arise as a factor promoting travel yet.
“Personally, I think it’s a Mickey Mouse attempt,” says Kelly. “If you’re really serious about helping tourism, I don’t think that does it,” he says, arguing that a reduction in the VAT rate is required instead.