Eamonn Gray, the Breffni Arms in Arva.

Retain 9% VAT rate – Gray

The management and staff at the Breffni Arms in Arva are an example of another tourism and hospitality business forced to close temporarily as a result of Level Five Covid restrictions.

Manager Eamonn Gray revealed that there are 20 staff members furloughed at the present time and on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). The hotel is effectively closed with the exception of providing accommodation for essential workers; while couples are postponing their weddings to 2022 or even opting for dates in 2023.

The hotel boss is hoping to expand his outdoor dining offering once the hotel is permitted to reopen to the public.

Mr Gray expects they will have to depend on the Government's Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) for a time when they eventually reopen.

"I can't complain really. The Government seems to have done their best and reduced the VAT to nine per cent for accommodation and food. They will need to keep that going because, apart from the pandemic, Brexit will have a bearing on the Northern visitors coming here into the future," he remarked.

Mr Gray is calling for some sort of tax break or assistance for the Border counties to counter the adverse affects coming out of the pandemic and the ongoing fallout from Brexit.

A hotspot for angling tourists, Mr Gray believes restrictions will keep English anglers away this summer and they will be relying on the domestic market.

"It would be a miracle to have the angling up and running again by June," he surmised. Traditionally, there are two major angling competitions hosted in the locality in June but not this year. "We would be possibly hoping to in a position to welcome some anglers during the August/September time. It depends on the status of the virus at that stage in other countries like England and other countries. We also get a lot of fisherman from France and Belgium. The rollout of the vaccine is going to be very important," continued Mr Gray.

He is finding that his regular anglers are keeping in contact with the hotel. "It is great that they are keeping in touch and they are deferring their planned trips to Arva. The contacts are being sustained via phone, email, twitter," said Mr Gray.

The focus in the interim, restrictions permitting, should be on improving the domestic tourism offering in Cavan.

"It will be important to organise lots of outdoor activities across the county and families could also take up fishing and teach the young people angling skills," suggested Mr Gray.

"In view of the fact that families and kids have been stuck at home for months, fishing would be something for them to do in the open air for a few hours during the day," he added.

Arva Town Development, in conjunction with Cavan County Council, installed new stands on the Town Lake. There are also plans to extend the road out to Hollybank Lake.

Mr Gray pointed to the many great attractions in the county including the Burren, Killykeen, the county Museum in Ballyjamesduff and the Cavan Adventure Centre for water sports, among others.

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