First week of reopening was ‘better than expected’ for restaurants – MHRA President

The first week during which restaurants were allowed to reopen went ‘better than expected’ the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) President Tony Zahra told The Malta Independent.

Restaurants and cafés opened their doors again on Monday 10 May after a two-month shutdown.

Restaurants and cafés were closed down in March amid a spike in Covid-19 cases but opened for business again last week, and business seems to be good.

For now, they can only open until 5pm, and can only provide a takeaway service from then onwards, but they will be allowed to serve clients until midnight as from 24 May.

This newsroom contacted MHRA President Tony Zahra and asked him how the first week of reopening went for restaurants. “Better than expected. We’ve had some very positive responses. It seemed that the demand was pent-up and although we expected a good response, the overall response was even better than we were expecting,” Zahra said.

He did say, however, that for a small section of the restaurant sector – particularly the fine-dining restaurants which base their business models on serving dinner, they “are all waiting for the 24th of May, when the opening hours for restaurants will be extended.”

He was asked whether, given that on 1 June the country is meant to actively be opening up for tourism, the MHRA expects an influx of hotel stays in June or a more gradual increase over the summer months? He said he expects it to build-up over time.

“I expect that June will be a slower month than July and August, but that is always the case anyway.”

“In terms of total number of tourists, we will not have the same numbers we had in 2019, we will have less than in 2019.”

Regardless, he said, he thinks June, July and August will be good months when compared to other pandemic months.

Asked whether he thinks restaurants will do quite well this year if they continue along the same lines of the past week, He said that “quite well is a very subjective term. Don’t forget they had been closed for around many weeks. It is not easy to make up lost ground and the number of tourists Malta is expecting to come between June and December is, at best, 60% of what we had during that period in 2019.”

He said that it will not be like 2019.

“We can’t celebrate as though everything is behind us as it isn’t, but at least we now have more certainty with regard to the restaurant business.”

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