Full ‘terrible’ Covid impact yet to be seen, warns hospitality boss
Hospitality Ulster chief Colin Neill has warned the “terrible” impact of Covid 19 on the industry is yet to fully emerge, with the survival of many venues far from certain.
“Once we have a clearer picture of the landscape, we can access the impact on businesses who could not reopen. We do not know how many businesses will have survived or not until we reopen again,” he said.
“The sector is burning up around £1m a day in staying closed so that would give some indication of the terrible situation we are likely to see when we get out the other side.”
The representative body’s chief, above, freely admits that government funding has been a “lifeline” for hospitality during lockdown but warned that alone “will never be enough”.
“It is the only way many in our industry have been able to food on the table at home.
“The pandemic has highlighted the disparity among business owners as not everyone had a cash reserve handy that they could use to keep their head above water.
“As our sector begins reopening again, support measures must be maintained to aid businesses return sustainably.
“The Executive must continue to support our sector until we can stand on our own two feet again and start to address the debts that have been accumulated, never mind break even”.
Despite the huge hurdles to be overcome, the Hospitality Ulster boss insists those within the industry are resilient and have adapted as best they could in the most challenging of circumstances.
He said: “Without doubt, this has been the hardest year for our business owners. They are mentally and physically exhausted and each lockdown has served as another blow.”
“The sector is also incredibly resilient and this needs to be acknowledged. Our sector knuckled down and have complied through it all. They found new ways to do business, which was really hard to do during a national lockdown, so my hat goes off to each of my members on their incredible attitude.
“There is no denying that this year has been devastating and some businesses unfortunately have not made it, but those that have stayed the course have done so in a really admirable way.”
Colin, like many, is now looking to the future and what exactly that hold for Northern Ireland hospitality.
‘Entire industry open’
“We are hopeful and know that once we get permission to reopen, our industry will jump to it in the safest way possible while also ensuring customers can enjoy themselves,” he said.
“We want to see the entire industry open as soon as it can, not just doors open for some and then traditional non-food pubs opening months later.
“Pre-pandemic, our sector supported 72,000 people as the fourth largest private sector employer, contributing around £2billion to the local economy. We are too important to the economic make up of Northern Ireland not to be prioritised.
Hospitality plays a key role in people’s lives as a means to socialise; meet friends; and often escape from the stresses of everyday life. The lockdowns have impacted on many people’s mental health, with loneliness being a major factor.
“Hospitality often offers a way to get out of the house, speak to people, so we know customers will return for those reasons once reopening happens.”