The new Fáilte Ireland operating guidelines for hotels released this week will pose specific challenges for Ireland’s 36 five-star properties, which justify their premium rates through attentive guest contact.
For the foreseeable future, room service will instead become tray-left-in-the-corridor service. No more stashes of extra pillows. No spa treatments worth mentioning. Staff will be wearing visors or masks, and restaurants will be at least half empty.
The John Malone-backed MHL group owns four five-star hotels including the Westin and Intercontinental in Dublin, the Powerscourt in Wicklow, and Glenlo Abbey in Galway. Paul Higgins is a partner in the group.
Higgins summed up the operating challenge facing top-end properties in the age of Covid-19: “We have to provide a five-star hotel experience, not a five-star hospital experience. We need to keep our guests happy and safe, but we must do it in the background. We cannot be constantly doing it in their faces.”
Five-star properties have in recent years been the most profitable part of the hotel sector, generating more than €29,000 annual profit per room in 2018, according to consultants Crowe. It says 2020 will be all about “survival”.
“When the market was on the way up, five stars grew their profits more quickly than everyone else,” says Aiden Murphy, the Crowe partner who oversees the annual publication of its respected hotel industry survey.
“The same will happen on the way down. Rates will fall very quickly.”
Pictured: Damien Bastiat, general manager of Ballyfin Hotel in Co Laois.