DUBLIN (Reuters) – The chief executive of Ireland’s largest hotel operator, Dalata Hotel Group <DHG.I>, believes it will take until 2022 for bookings to return to some level of normality following the coronavirus outbreak.
Dalata last week announced the withdrawal of its proposed final dividend for 2019, a postponement of uncommitted capital expenditure and large reductions in staff numbers and pay, to be reviewed on a rolling basis in two months’ time.
It has temporarily closed 29 of its 44 hotels in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Pat McCann said on Wednesday, adding that the group “essentially will never be under threat” as it has the option to sell and lease back some of the 30 hotels it owns if it needs cash beyond the level it has freed up.
McCann said he had so far temporarily laid off 2,500 staff, more than half the number Dalata employed at the end of 2019. He said he did not expect a lot of the restrictions in place in Ireland to end before September.
“If I look at our own plans, 2020 is a year to make sure you survive, then 2021 is a year of starting to build back the business and I would see 2022 as the year where you’re getting back to some level of normality in terms of visitor traffic and visitor numbers,” McCann told an Irish Times podcast.
“If we look at it any other way, we’re all going to end up being disappointed.
McCann said that similar to the financial crisis a decade ago, corporate travel associated with Ireland’s large multinational sector would lead the return to normality with leisure travel much slower to recover.
A coronavirus vaccine would be needed before confidence could return, he said, making this crisis different to any other the hospitality industry has faced in recent decades.
“I started in the early 1970’s, the oil crisis hit and everybody thought that was terrible, and then you had recession in the early 80s, you had Gulf Wars, the dot-com bubble, 9/11 and of course in 2008, the financial crash,” McCann said.
“If you put all of those together, they don’t equal what’s happening currently and the really difficult part is we have no idea when it will end. While Ireland might be ahead of the curve and relatively free fairly quickly, we need the rest of the world to be in the same place.”
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Chris Reese and Alison Williams)