INSET:Tony Walker, General Manager of the Slieve Russell Hotel.

Put an end to rolling lockdowns

“I would not like to see us opening up too early and finding ourselves back in another lockdown in two or three months time. I would prefer to stay closed for another period of time – six or seven weeks or whatever it takes.

“None of us wants another lockdown – the disruption to business of closing and re-opening and temporarily laying off staff – the uncertainty of that is just not on. It is terrible for people and their well being.”

That was the view expressed by the general manager of the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell speaking on RTE radio last week. Tony Walker was responding to comments by the Taoiseach that Level Five restrictions may be extended beyond Easter.

There are in the region of 120 workers, including full-time and part-time staff temporarily laid-off from their positions in the Slieve Russell Hotel at present and they are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

Mr Walker pointed out that there are 4,800 direct jobs in the tourism sector in counties Cavan and Monaghan.

He is hopeful that hotels will be permitted to reopen for the month of May. “Maybe I am a bit optimistic there and maybe it has to be a gradual process. I know they [Government] are working on a new roadmap and we need that. There has to be a gradual reopening of the economy in all sectors,” said Mr Walker.

In relation to the rescheduling of weddings, couples are moving their dates to quarter three and four of this year and in some instances into next year.

“Unfortunately some couples had already changed dates from last year on a couple of occasions and the wind has been taken out of their sails and they have thrown in the towel and are proceeding to get married with just six at the wedding,” revealed Mr Walker of some cancellations.

“There is so much uncertainty facing couples. When we do re-open, how many will we be allowed to have at a wedding and when it that likely to happen? Will live music be allowed at the weddings? Some couples are booking provisional dates for next year in case the wedding they have planned for June, July or August does not go ahead this year,” he continued.

Mr Walker feels the speedy roll out of the vaccine will play a part in how many people will be permitted at weddings etc.

“We are effectively going to lose another year in terms of catering for weddings and conferences and any sort of event I would say is going to be gone,” he continued.

In relation to selling bed nights in the second half the year, Mr Walker says he is most optimistic on that front.

“We all had a good July and August last year. We had great support from our own people living in Ireland who took up the staycation options,” he remarked.

Golfing and leisure facilities at the hotel are also a big attraction and Mr Walker revealed that the month of September last year was much better than anticipated.

The hotel boss believes it is “crazy” golf courses are not permitted to open.

“What is wrong with a couple of people playing a few rounds of golf in the fresh air? Even if they said ‘go ahead and put the protocols in place’, you can only play two together every 15 minutes on the time sheet. We would welcome anything on that front,” he said.

“When I spoke to some of our own guests that stayed last summer, they said that they enjoyed Cavan.

We are a sleeping giant in some ways when it comes to this tourism. There is lots to offer and it is very pertinent at the moment in terms of outdoors, watersports, and scenery. There is the geopark and the burren, so there is so much to do and see,” enthused Mr Walker of Cavan’s offering


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