Little festive cheer for local hotels as low occupancy levels raises alarm

Express Reporter

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Little festive cheer for local hotels as low occupancy levels raises alarm

Dara Cruise, Chair of hte IHF Midlands branch and general manager of the Midlands Park

The latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) reveals that hotel and guesthouses are reporting occupancy levels of just 22% nationally for December, as bookings plunge compared to December 2019.

Chair of the IHF Midlands branch, Dara Cruise says that occupancy levels are expected to be 27% in the Midlands.

With inter-county travel prohibited until 18th December, Mr Cruise says that hotels continue to operate under severe restrictions resulting in historically low room bookings in the lead up to Christmas.

This is having a knock-on effect on food and beverage revenues and comes at a time when bookings for corporate events and Christmas parties have been wiped out due to Covid restrictions.

Following a 91% drop in revenues in November, hotels nationally are now projecting a 72% drop on average for the first three weeks of December with 44% expecting falls in excess of 75%. Despite these record drops in revenue for December, an anomaly in how the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme is structured means that these hotels will be excluded from the scheme.

The reason being cited by Government is that people are not being restricted from entering a hotel, they are simply being restricted from ‘leaving their county’ in order to enter a hotel.

The effect of this ‘nuanced’ interpretation of the wording is that most hotel accommodation business is being restricted but accommodation providers are specifically excluded from qualifying under Level 3 restrictions even where they meet the required 75% drop in turnover criteria.

Mr Cruise called on the Government to review this enormous shortcoming in the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) as a matter of urgency as many hotels project revenue drops in excess of 75%.

“Currently accommodation providers can only accept bookings from within their county, which represents only a very small proportion of hotel accommodation at this time of year.

“The result is that, in order to comply with Government restrictions, accommodation providers are required to restrict the vast majority of their usual customer base from accessing their premises.

“This is having an enormous impact, leading to a collapse in turnover.

“Surely a 75% reduction in turnover due to the Government specifically not allowing people leave their county is exactly the type of devastating situation that the CRSS was intended to support?

“Public health is the No 1 priority, and we support the Government’s aim of reopening the country safely. However, hotels and guesthouses continue to be disproportionately impacted by Government restrictions with disastrous implications for revenue and related employment within our sector.

“We are seeking a level playing field and are calling on the Government to reconsider their approach to the operation of the CRSS so that further damage is not done to the sector.

“Pre-Covid, tourism in Laois and Offaly, of which hotels are a key component, supported 4,400 jobs and generated €66m in local revenues,” says Mr Cruise.

The IHF survey was carried out during the week of Monday, 7th December and the results are based on the response of 278 properties with 30,700 guest rooms spread across the country.

Breakdown of occupancy results for December 2020:

National room occupancy: 22%

Dublin City and County: 21%

Other Cities: 29%

Rest of country (excluding cities): 19%

Border region: 16%

Mid-West: 20%

Midlands / Mid East: 27%

South East: 25%

South West: 21%

West: 21%

“Hotels and guesthouses in Laois and Offaly provide local employment opportunities, they buy local services, source locally produced food and provide a vital infrastructure in support of local business and communities.

“Failure to support the accommodation sector could have far-reaching social and economic implications that could take many years to recover,” Mr Cruise concluded.