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The Great Reopening Part 2: Hospitality
The Great Reopening Part 2: Hospitality

Posted by    |   July 22nd, 2020   |   No Comments

When the decision was made to close the pubs all the way back in March, the reality of COVID-19 hit home for most of us. For Ireland to close this section of the economy two days before what is traditionally one of the busiest trading day of the year meant was a watershed moment that in terms of impact was only surpassed by the school closures that had come just a few days earlier. Although many pubs had been full in the run up to the closure, the other parts of the hospitality sector had experienced a spike in cancellations as both health and economic concerns weighed on people’s minds.

Restaurants 

As part of our Great Reopening Survey, we asked 280 consumers across the island a series of questions relating to the hospitality sector, which was the most high profile element of the reopening. After months of takeaways and home-cooking, it 45% had made a booking for a restaurant or intended to do so. It was no surprise that some (14%) didn’t expect they’d feel comfortable in a pub or restaurant setting for the foreseeable future, although it is encouraging for the industry how low that figure was prior to the reopening and it is very likely to fall further as those who have dined our share their experiences.

In terms of the measures in place in the hospitality sector to protect customers and staff, hand sanitizer availability was comfortably the most important factor, with 72% finding this highly encouraging, followed by contactless payments (54%), limited numbers (47%) and face mask usage by staff (45%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the least popular measure was the time limits, with 23% indicating this would discourage them from going to a premises. When asked what they felt the appropriate social distancing requirement should be, 1 metre (39%) edged out the standard 2 metre requirement (35%), with only a relatively small portion (8%) of respondents feeling there shouldn’t be a minimum.

On the subject of events, the results were more or less as expected as most preferred to wait until later in the year, with only 10% feeling they would be comfortable attending an indoor event in July, 19% in August-September, 27% in October-December and 25% next year, while 10% said they would wait until a vaccine was available. For large outdoor events, it was much the same as only 11% felt they would be comfortable attending a concert or sporting event immediately, with 40% preferring to wait until later in the year and 46% waiting until next year at the earliest.

Holidays 

As the COVID-spring gave way to COVID-summer, the idea of staycations (holidaying in Ireland) has gained popularity, with 70% indicating they would go on at least one ‘home’ holiday this year compared to 33% who indicated they would travel abroad. The biggest draws have been coastal/beach locations (59%), which was valued above everything else, although restaurants (47%), scenery (42%), walking trails (38%) and natural wonders (36%) were all of significance to ‘home’ tourists. Nightlife (13%) was the least important factor, although one that is probably influenced by the uncertainty that exists across that sector’s own re-opening.

Despite the nation becoming more adventurous, only 11% would choose camping or caravan accommodation for their holiday, as hotels (39%) remain the most popular accommodation, followed by apartments/houses (29%), although the latter option is gaining ground due to the reduced contact and therefore reduced risk in the current climate. On the subject of risk, the most important factor in deciding whether to fly away and to where has unsurprisingly been the infection rate in the destination country, which 83% said was highly important, followed by restrictions in those countries (73%) and quarantine time on return (58%).

Value for Money

As was the case in other sectors, value for money (53%) remains a significant factor in the decision making process for where to holiday. Value for money would have been the most significant factor to consumers across all sectors in the pre-COVID era but unsurprisingly gave way to concerns for one’s safety and how businesses mitigated the risks to them. We asked what was most important in general in the current climate, safety measures or value for money. While safety measures edged it (52% to 48%), it was closer than expected and is probably an indicator that while normality hasn’t resumed, consumer attitudes are beginning to normalise in the post-Lockdown era.

By Ronan Cassidy

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