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Hospitality Ulster tell the NI Executive - “Planning must start now”


Hospitality Ulster calls on Executive to engage with the hospitality industry to develop plans for future reopening as review phase approaches

Hospitality Ulster has called on the Northern Ireland Executive, its public health advisers and the Covid Taskforce Strategic Oversight Board to work in partnership with the industry and develop the parameters by which the hospitality sector can reopen, so that plans can be shaped well in advance of actual reopening. The call comes as the previously suggested gradual ending of lockdown three approaches around the first week of March. The organisation has said that it is taking a leading role in readying the sector for reopening and that the review expected later this week must provide hope. Hospitality Ulster says that the Executive must engage in meaningful discussions, learn from past mistakes, and tell the sector what it needs to plan for, so that it is prepared well in advance and has all mitigations in place. It says that it has not only been compliant with all lockdown phases, but that it also supported and understood the need for lockdown three. Previous to the current lockdown, the hospitality industry had been working within the most stringent regulations possible, and provided a regulated Covid secure environment. It is hoped that co-operation and action has been recognised by decision makers who are now faced with an industry that needs to be supported and given a timetable it can work to. Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said today: “The hospitality sector has been the worst hit and suffered almost an entire year of being closed or heavily restricted. We are now in a frightening situation. Bounce back loans have been burnt up and cash reserves have been depleted and desperation is really beginning to set in.” “Both the industry and government now need to learn lessons from past restrictions, what worked, and what didn’t. We also need a new approach; reversing the previous reopening strategy, from; who can open - here are the rules, to; here are the rules and those that can comply can open, whilst providing financial support for those that cannot operate sustainably under the rules. Simply choosing a business type as criteria to open and removing financial support rather than a risk assessed approach can actually be counterproductive, pushing a business to open even though it can’t be compliant.” “Let’s be proactive, let’s get a plan in place well in advance and fight back and accelerate the recovery. We have already been through the wringer prior to previous lockdowns and have developed a significant level of experience in relation to safety measures and understanding restrictions and how to implement them.” “If we need to do more, we need to know now. If its greater ventilation for example, give us the specification and the financial support so that business owners can go off and source well before the reopening phase, just don’t land this on us last minute – we are in too fragile a state to survive last minute rule decisions and rule changes.”