With the lock-down expected to last until March and further restrictions to remain in place well into the summer, most Kerry hotels do not expect to fully reopen before late May.
ven so – and after a horrific year which saw revenues at most hotels down by almost two thirds – Kerry hoteliers are remaining upbeat and are confident the sector can recover quickly once restrictions are, eventually, lifted.
Few expect international tourism to return to any significant degree before 2023, at the earliest, but the domestic market is expected to be robust when restrictions are lifted and people are afforded the opportunity to enjoy a holiday or short getaway break after months cooped up at home.
This belief and confidence is bolstered by the experience last year when, despite a dramatically curtailed season and the need to implement stringent social distancing measures, most Kerry hotels enjoyed a successful summer.
Bernadette Randles, proprietor of Killarney’s Dromhall Hotel and President of the Kerry Branch of the Irish Hotel’s Federation, said the outlook is generally good in spite of the crisis gripping the industry.
“We’re in a difficult situation, but we are where we are, and it’s no-one’s fault. The important thing we all have to do is stay positive,” she said.
“In terms of reopening, I think it could be anytime in May or June. The one thing we know is we will reopen. We will be back,” said Ms Randles.
“Last summer went very well everywhere and it turned out to be very good season. People needed a little fun, they needed a little enjoyment, and I think we’ll see that again this summer,” she said.
As most hotels kept the majority, if not all, of their staff on the books and all now have experience adapting their businesses to social-distancing rules, Ms Randles says the hotel sector in Kerry is ready to reopen.
“We’re ready to go, we just need to get the doors open,” she said.
“Until then, we need to stay positive and have hope. Things will get better.”
Over in Tralee at the multi-award-winning Ballygarry House Hotel, Proprietor Padraig McGillcuddy was also feeling positive about the year ahead. Like Ms Randles, he also expects it will be May or June before the hospitality sector gets back to business, but he is also firmly of the opinion that the industry can bounce back.
While Mr McGillicuddy feels it is likely to be 2023 before the industry is back on its feet, he agrees that the domestic market will be able to provide a buffer.
As the proprietor of a hotel with a large and well-known wedding trade, Mr McGillicuddy and the rest of the team at Ballygarry have extra reason to be confident ahead of their eventual reopening later in the year.
Demand for weddings has shown no sign of slowing, and while the ceremonies will be smaller for the foreseeable future, there will be no shortage of people tying the knot.
In fact, given the number of weddings that have had to be postponed due to COVID-19 – at Ballygarry alone some wedding celebrations have been rearranged five times already – the Tralee hotel is facing a glut of nuptials when normal service resumes.
Typically, pre-COVID, Ballygarry House Hotel hosted an average of two weddings a week. When it reopens, Mr McGillicuddy expects the hotel will be catering for five a week until the backlog is cleared.
Perhaps surprisingly, new wedding bookings have continued right through the latest lock-downs.
“Right now, we have bookings right through in to 2022 and 2023. People started booking in the last three months, and I suppose with the number of postponed weddings, a lot of couples wanted to get in and get their day booked,” said Mr McGillicuddy.
“The thing about weddings is they’re recession proof. The business survived the last recession and the ash cloud, and it will survive this. People will always want to get married,” he said.
As to the general reopening of the hospitality sector, like Bernadette Randles and her staff in Killarney, the team at Ballygarry is ready and waiting.
“Once we can open the doors it’s full steam ahead,” Mr McGillicuddy said.