• Cyril McAree

MEDIA STATEMENT FROM THE IRISH HOTELS FEDERATION

Media reports and details of the recent event held by the Oireachtas Golf Society raise a number of important questions and serious issues which require further clarification as set out below by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

As the representative body for hotels and guesthouses, we have worked closely with the Government throughout this pandemic to ensure robust operational procedures and industry guidelines are in place and effectively communicated in order to safeguard public health in line with evolving Government advice. This is of paramount importance to the IHF and our members throughout the country.

We are in ongoing contact with the Department of Tourism – the lead Government Department for our sector – as well as Fáilte Ireland in order to inform hotels and guesthouses about their public health responsibilities, including all updates and changes as they become available.

NOTE: The IHF provides general guidance, and at all times we encourage hotels and guesthouses to comply with the required guidelines. We do not have any role in enforcing, monitoring or approving the implementation of this guidance or operational guidelines.

We would like to stress that we see first-hand the enormous and essential work done by both the Department of Tourism and Fáilte Ireland in equipping our sector with the required guidance and advice necessary to operate safely in line with public health advice.

However, throughout this time we have also experienced first-hand the challenges for businesses in relation to wider Government communications around public health advice, e.g. central Government press conferences announcing changes to public health advice in the absence of updated operational guidelines for businesses.

Agreed Process with Department of Tourism: As a result of this time-lag, there is an established process in place with the Department of Tourism for when changes are announced in that the status quo remains in place until updated guidance is issued by the Department. This means that the new advice does not come into effect for tourism businesses until updated guidance is developed and communicated through the Department. This time-lag can create significant challenges, given public expectations around newly announced Government advice.

The issues raised this week show the limitations in relation to current official communications around changes to public health advice to industry.

Timeline:

Tuesday evening (18th August): the Government held a press conference in which additional public health measures affecting food businesses were announced.

· Wednesday morning (19th August): The IHF received a follow-up query from the organiser of the Oireachtas Golf Society in relation to the guidelines for indoor gatherings. We indicated that we had no update from the Department of Tourism on the Guidelines.

· Wednesday morning (19th August): In response to queries in relation to Tuesday’s announcement, the Department of Tourism informed the IHF that the status quo [existing guidance] remained until clarification was received [in consultation with the Department of Health].

NOTE: Existing Guidance at that time still allowed for indoor gatherings of a maximum of 50 people at any one time including hotel staff and any other event support workers. Multiple gatherings were allowed in venue facilities provided they were in separate defined spaces and there were systems to prevent intermingling in common spaces (e.g. entrances, exits and toilet facilities).

Wednesday morning (19th August): Following the Department of Tourism update, the IHF informed all hotels and guesthouses that the status quo remained pending updated guidance from the Department of Tourism.

Friday afternoon (21st August): The IHF received interim guidance from Fáilte Ireland in relation to gatherings and businesses serving food, including the restriction of gatherings to six people indoors and 15 people outdoors with weddings for up to 50 people including staff exempt.

Note: Fáilte Ireland has informed us that they are in the process of updating the relevant guidelines and that these will be available early next week.

Health and safety is of paramount importance to the Irish Hotels Federation and our members, and we continue to work closely with the Government to ensure public health advice and latest guidance is effectively communicated to our industry.

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