The Covid-19 outbreak will impact the tourism and hospitality sectors across Munster, business leaders have warned.
The warnings come as Ireland’s largest hotel group, Dalata, which owns the Maldron and Clayton chains, warned of “a significant reduction” in bookings and “a significant increase” in cancellations as the virus takes hold.
The stockmarket-listed firm is the first major tourism-focused company to acknowledge the effect of the virus fallout on its Irish and British hotels, as Italy imposed quarantines in some of its regions.
And many Munster tourism chiefs fear that the fall in international visitors to Ireland will affect the economy.
Alan O’Callaghan, assistant manager of the Spike Island Development Company, said he expects a downturn in foreign visitor numbers, particularly because the attraction is Cobh-based and any fall in the cruise line visitors will hit numbers.
He said he will be looking at the domestic market to make up any shortfalls.
“If there are fewer people coming into the country, or if people are less likely to travel abroad to Ireland, we will see an impact,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
However, he said the cancellation of Cobh’s St Patrick’s Day parade will not likely affect visitor numbers badly.
Paul O’Neill, president of Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, said the Kerry town has seen a few cancellations from tourists.
“I suppose we have seen a few cancellations of different groups over the last week, but nothing major yet,” he said. “There has been a slight increase in cancellations.
“[The virus] is a big worry. Killarney and Kerry are dependent on tourism. It’s a big concern for the season ahead.”
The cancellation of St Patrick’s Day parades will affect tourism spend, said Mr O’Neill. “From a hospitality and tourism perspective, it would have a huge impact on businesses, not just on St Patrick’s Day but beyond,” he said.
Dalata Hotel Group chief executive Pat McCann said that the virus fallout for its hotels in Ireland and Britain had been seen in recent weeks.
“While the group had experienced no material reduction in demand due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in China at the announcement of our full-year results on 25 February, we have since observed a significant reduction in bookings and a significant increase in cancellations following the spread of Covid-19 to Europe, in particular the spread of the virus to northern Italy and from there to the UK and Ireland,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a sign of the wider fallout, Apple sold fewer than 500,000 iPhones in China in February, government data showed, as the coronavirus outbreak halved demand for smartphones.
In total, all mobile phone brands sold a total of 6.34 million devices in February in China, down 54.7% in the same month last year, data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology showed.
- The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
- Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999