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Coronavirus: NI hotels to reopen on 20 July

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Hotels and tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland will be allowed to reopen on 20 July.The Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed the move as part of the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.It has been welcomed by the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation (NIHF) as a "step forward for the industry".In May, the government in the Republic of Ireland confirmed its hotels will also reopen on 20 July.Last week, the executive said hotels could start taking bookings again but did not say when they could reopen.
This was met with anger by many in the hospitality trade.Announcing the decision on Monday afternoon, Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she believed it was the right time to provide the tourist accommodation sector with clarity about opening dates following "unprecedented challenges for our tourism industry".
Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she wants to reopen the industry in a "safe and managed way"
"I want to build upon the positive progress in managing the spread of the virus and begin to re-open our tourism industry in a safe and managed way," she said.Tourist accommodation re-opening:
Hotels
Holiday parks
Caravan sites and self-catering properties
Guesthouses and accommodation
Bed and breakfast accommodation
Hostels
Holiday parks, self-catering properties and caravan parks may open earlier than 20 July, said the minister, depending on scientific advice.It is not yet clear whether bars, restaurants and other facilities in hotels will be allowed to open to residents from 20 July.In the Republic of Ireland, hotel bars will remain closed when hotels reopen on 20 July. The hotels will reopen with limited occupancy and social distancing measures will continue
Analysis
By John Campbell, BBC News NI business and economics editorThe hoteliers have their date.Last week's announcement that they could take take bookings, but without even an indicative reopening date, was met with a mixture of bemusement and anger.Particularly when rival operators in the Republic were already working towards a reopening date.The question now is what sort of experience hotels will be able to offer in seven weeks time.The economy minister has talked about working with the industry to 'explore what facilities and amenities can safely be made available.'Will restaurants be able to open
The minister stressed, however, that progress on re-opening will depend on controlling the rate of transmission of the virus.NIHF chief executive Janice Gault said the federation has been working closely with industry colleagues to ensure that businesses can open in a safe and secure manner.She said more work was needed around the details of reopening and said safety was paramount."We will continue to work in a collaborative manner so that the visitor economy, including the hotel sector, can return to business and help restore the Northern Ireland economy," she said."Having an agreed date will help us to plan, promote and give businesses the opportunity to assess their viability."Bill Wolsey, managing director of the Beannchor group, which owns the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, said the announcement "provides the first glimmer of hope for the recovery of Northern Ireland's hospitality industry".
NIHF chief executive Janice Gault said the federation has been working closely with industry colleagues
However, he said there "is a need for further clarification around hotel facilities". Howard Hastings, managing director of the Hastings Hotel Group, said there were no "fully bottomed-out guidelines yet, but we can see the way it is working for other sectors, so there are certain preparations we can make now"."Certainly the suppliers to the industry are well geared up to provide us with the sort of additional equipment or PPE (personal protective equipment) that we might need in order to facilitate guests," he added.Neil Moore, from the union Unite, said the furlough period should be used to "upskill" hospitality workers by providing good quality training, accessing apprenticeship levy funding and measures to ensure safety when facilities reopen. He said: "These measures must include testing and contact tracing, supply of appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), meaningful engagement with employees, extensive risk assessments and their effective enforcement, and continuation of job supports - tied to job retention not redundancy."Mr Moore later said he had written to all the Northern Ireland Executive ministers to "protest today's announcement by the economy minister to reopen hotels and other accommodation without any effective means of enforcement on basic infection controls"."Far from being welcomed by hospitality workers, today's announcement has caused widespread fear and concern among those who face the prospect of returning to work in unsafe working conditions," he said.
Coronavirus lockdown measures
Coronavirus pandemic
NI economy
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