‘Staycation’ is the word on the tip of many people’s tongues these days. An accelerated timetable for the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hotels, has meant that many Irish people are looking into the option of holidaying in the country.
For the Fota Island Resort, Cork, Irish holiday-makers could be the salvation of the summer season.
John O’Flynn, General Manager of the 5 star hotel, struck an optimistic but grounded tone when he spoke to The Avondhu recently about the hotel getting back to business.
“From our bookings, we have seen that we will be busy as the summer wears on. I think we are starting to see quite a good summer pick-up. Cork and Ireland have so much to offer people who will holiday at home. But a challenge for hotels remains in terms of the international travel restrictions that are in place at the moment,” Mr O’Flynn added, lamenting that visitor numbers would not be able to climb until these restrictions were eased.
Discussing what options might be available for recovering the summer season, or giving the industry a boost, Mr O’Flynn said that he believed already there was an appetite among Irish people to ‘get going’. He remarked that the mooted extension of the October school break could give hotels a shot in the arm, before facing into the winter season.
Christmas, he said, was always a very popular time for people to get away, and many in the industry would be looking to the holidays for a timely boost.
While holidaymakers may be keen to get back to their hotel stays, they should expect some changes. However, Mr O’Flynn was keen to point out that the experience would not be a radically changed one.
“The significant change will be where a guest will have to consider when and where they will go for dinner, for example. What that means is that a little more planning will have to be put in, and a little bit more attention paid to those aspects, however, I have full confidence that hotel guests will continue to enjoy their experience,” he explained.
Mr O’Flynn did acknowledge that other changes would be visible, such as customers no longer being able to congregate at the hotel bar, or being asked to maintain a level of social distancing.
These restrictions, he reflected, were very achievable, in no small part thanks to the compliance of the Irish people. “When you think about things more broadly, the people of Ireland have been very willing to adhere to regulations,” he remarked.
The recently released Fáilte Ireland guidelines set out an array of health and safety measures designed to protect both hotel staff and customers. The onus rests largely with the hotel to reach the required hygiene thresholds, but Mr O’Flynn believes the Fota Island Resort is more than up to the task.
“For hotels, the new requirements, from a hygiene perspective, are in many ways already in hand. Sanitising is very much part of the regime to begin with,” he said.
Discussing the possibility that people may be cautious, or perhaps even a little nervous leaving their homes and staying in hotels once more, Mr O’Flynn said that while people were undoubtedly nervous a few weeks ago, that as businesses have reopened, people have become more confident.
“Hotels are not the first industry opening their doors. People are already out and about. For example, our golf course in the Fota Island Resort has been open for some time now, and people’s confidence has been growing by the minute”.
While uncertainty lingers around wedding ceremonies at the moment, on the issue of corporate bookings, Mr O’Flynn was more upbeat. He told The Avondhu that smaller conferences would return ‘quite quickly’.
“In fact, there is a big appetite from our corporate clients to get back to meeting face-to-face,” he said.
Hotels like the Fota Island Resort were well equipped to deal with the altered requirements of clients, Mr O’Flynn insisted. “Meeting rooms can quickly be set up to facilitate social distancing requirements, and we can have very simple but effective measures in place, like providing tissues and pedal bins for the disposal of same, as well as any PPE required,” he stated.
LIFTING THE COVID-19
While Covid-19 has certainly hit the tourism and hospitality sectors harder than many other industries, a note of cautious optimism is also evident.
‘Air-bridges’ with other nations showing low cases of the virus may be established, allowing foreign tourists to return to the country in some numbers. Such a move, would undoubtedly be a relief to hoteliers across Ireland. However, they will rely this year, more than ever, on domestic tourists. Enticing people back to hotels in Ireland is a challenge John believes the industry can rise to.
Concluding, Mr O’Flynn remarked: “I firmly believe that the hospitality industry have a role to play in lifting the Covid cloud in Ireland.”