BACK IN BUSINESS Des Reidy will welcome customers back to his Westport bed and breakfast on June 29.
The proprietor of one of Westport’s largest B&Bs is keen for the 2020 tourism season to get back on track
LIKE most businesses in Westport, Des Reidy was looking forward to a prosperous 2020 and had enjoyed a busy start to the year at his well-established B&B, Clooneen House, located at the junction of Distillery Road and Castlebar Road in Westport.
However, come June 29, Clooneen House will have been closed for 101 days, and it’s now really a question of playing catch-up for the rest of 2020.
“I closed up the B&B on Friday, March 20, but really didn’t believe we’d be closed for over 100 days. It’s a relief to be able to open up on June 29, at least we still have a couple of months of the summer to look forward to.”
Like all other businesses opening up, Des has to pay attention to the strict guidelines being put forward by the Government, the HSE and Fáilte Ireland.
“I have installed hand-sanitisers and also put appropriate signage and floor markings in place. I purchased a PVC protection screen for my reception area. I have had to adapt and rearrange furniture in all communal areas and the dining room. The guest rooms have been tweaked to ensure that soft furnishings are minimal, this will help facilitate the regular cleaning and sanitising of surfaces. It was necessary to purchase new cleaning materials along with PPE, eg face masks, gloves and uniforms, for my staff that are specifically to be worn at work only.
“I have met with my staff to inform and train them on all the necessary health and safety measures that we must follow and practice daily. Ensuring that both my staff and guests are kept safe at all times is my utmost priority.”
With all these measures in place, Des is happy to report that bookings have been taken already, but it is clear that summer 2020 will not come close to a normal, busy summer in Westport.
Help is needed
Therefore, he feels it is incumbent on the Government and the local County Council to help out the tourism industry as much as they can in the coming months.
“If a reduction or a temporary freeze was considered for Rates, Employer PRSI and VAT, it would greatly alleviate the financial burden on businesses going forward.
“If the government could offer supplementary income to workers who will not be able to return to full hours due to social distancing measures and the decrease in the demand for services in the tourism industry, this would be also welcomed.
“Also, I would be calling on the banks to offer interest free options on new loans to businesses and also offer an interest free moratorium on existing business loans.
“Our own County Council could offer free or reduced parking for the rest of the summer season. They could also explore the options of a marketing campaign to attract domestic tourism and entice people to holiday within Ireland.
“I read last week in The Mayo News that they are planning to do this so hopefully they will follow through.”
Despite the huge challenges that lie ahead, Des knows he is luckier than most B&Bs in the county in terms of location, and in the long run he hopes things can return to close to normal.
“Westport has been listed as one of the main tourist towns that will be significantly impacted as a result of Covid-19. Therefore, I think our town will be greatly effected by this virus and unfortunately businesses will suffer as a result. However I remain positive that we can return to business as normal, be that a new version of ‘normal’, temporarily, I hope.
“Many businesses will feel the effects of this for a long time yet and unfortunately some may cease to operate into the future. We here in Westport have a very strong, unified community spirit with many well established family run businesses that will continue to offer the ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ that they have done for generations and hope to for many more to come. We have to remain positive and hope for the best.”