STAYING POSITIVE: Bernadette Randles says the tourism industry will bounce back.

By Sean Moriarty

Bernadette Randles, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation says it is impossible to put a figure on the job losses and unemployment issues the local industry faces in the wake of the current COVID-19 crisis.

Tourism in Kerry employs almost 16,000 people and it contributes over €600 million to the local economy. The Kerry IHF branch has over one hundred hotels and guesthouses as members.

Each job in the sector is responsible for a half of another job in associated trades like the food supply chain and taxis.

A conservative estimate suggests that over 25,000 people in Kerry are affected by the tourism industry shutdown alone and this figure does not include third-party trades like garages who would supply repairs and fuel to the car hire industry.

Ms Randles, who is one of Killarney’s most respected hoteliers, said closing her two hotels and telling her 90 staff she had no work for them was the hardest thing she had to do in a lifetime in the hospitality industry.

Her family own and operate the Dromhall Hotel and Randles Court Hotel on the Muckross Road and as well as her role in the local branch she was recently elected national vice-chair of the Irish Hotels Federation.

As a gesture of goodwill, she made food packages up from leftover supplies in her hotels’ kitchens so her staff would not be without essentials in the weeks ahead.

They repaid the gesture by turning up for work on Tuesday, without pay, and helped prepare for the shutdown by turning off electrical appliances like televisions in all rooms.

“We will bounce back from this,” she told the Killarney Advertiser. “It was very upsetting for me and the staff to have to close the hotels, but we will rebuild and we will come through this.”