THE owner of one of Tyrone’s best-known outdoor attractions has spoken of his overwhelming relief at finally getting the go-ahead to reopen his business this Friday.
Straight-talking entrepreneur, Benny O’Hanlon, of Todds Leap Outdoor Activity Centre, near Ballygawley, told the Tyrone Herald, “The handcuffs have been removed.”
In further good news for people across the county, the Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to let close-contact services, such as hairdressers, barbers and beauticians, resume at the end of this week, along with outdoor attractions.
Mr O’Hanlon said he was delighted to receive confirmation that Todds Leap could reopen, but added that there was a “bit of trepidation” after being shut for so long.
The owner said his business is facing a massive rebuilding and restructuring programme.
“Realigning is a good way of putting it,” he said.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Todds Leap lost some eight or nine months of business last year and has remained “closed tight” since December 22.
But, having been given the green light to reopen, Mr O’Hanlon said he is taking on extra staff as he has “big plans” for expanding into the ‘staycation’ market this summer.
With the ‘stay local’ message from the government, the businessman is investing in more rooms as he believes the ‘staycation’ will finally come of age in Tyrone.
“We’re taking a punt on that and I think we’ll be proved right,” he said.
Having been dormant for much of the last 12 months, Mr O’Hanlon admitted there was a “massive” amount of work to be done in order to get the premises ready to reopen.
“We normally spend three to four months getting ready for the season. While we usually have that slow build-up, this time we’re going to open up with a bang,” he said.
But, having seen Covid-19 numbers surge locally after last summer, the entrepreneur said, “I will be keeping my cautious hat on, and anyone sensible will as well. The onus is on the general public to make this work.”
Moving in the right direction
Commenting on the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions, Health Minister Robin Swann said, “We are moving in the right direction and it’s important to bring optimism and certainty to this improving picture.
“Every one of us has a part to play in maintaining progress – by getting vaccinated when our turn comes and by sticking with the actions that have served us well for the past year – including social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands.
“It’s also vital to remember that outdoor settings are significantly safer than indoors. As we look forward to a better summer, we must not lose sight of the fact that the virus is still a threat. The more we increase vaccination uptake rate, the more we strengthen our defences.”
Mr Swann added, “The Executive’s phased and gradual approach to easing restrictions is the right one. Opening everything up at the same time would not be the responsible way forward. We must not jeopardise the progress we have made.”