THE latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) reveals a collapse in new hotel bookings following the Government’s update on Covid restrictions on February 23.
The sector is effectively at a standstill with no net new bookings as cancellations wipe out any new business. Hotels and guesthouses in Cork and across the country are now facing enormous uncertainty without much-needed clarity and additional supports from the Government.
The Irish Hotels Federation has urged the Government to provide a significant increase in sector specific supports for tourism businesses as a matter of urgency with hotels and guesthouses nationally reporting booking levels of just 22% for July and 20% August which are usually the key summer months that act as a lifebuoy for many other months of the year.
Speaking following the latest meeting of the Government’s Hospitality and Tourism Forum, Fergal Harte, chair of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels Federation stated: “The domestic market was very important to the Irish hotel sector last year and we expect that booking levels will improve.
“However, in the meantime, businesses have to plan. The Government may not be able to provide assurances as to when society will reopen, but they can give much-needed certainty and reassurance around business and employee supports.
“With Cork hotels facing a prolonged period of closure and related cash burn, this piecemeal approach is hugely frustrating and detrimental for hotels and their teams who, along with the rest of the tourism and hospitality sector, have been disproportionately impacted by Covid restrictions.
“Specifically, we are seeking increases in payments under the Covid Restrictions Supports Scheme (CRSS) with a doubling of payment amounts irrespective of the level of Covid restrictions as well as the removal of the current €5,000 weekly cap.
“We estimate that 44% of hotel bedroom stock nationally is excluded from CRSS entirely, and this must be resolved as a matter of urgency.
“Enhanced employment subsidies are also necessary. We also ask the Government to intervene with the banks to ensure they have appropriate supports and engagement processes in place for hotels and their team members until the pandemic has passed.
“Hotels also require a clear commitment from the Government to retain the 9% tourism VAT rate. Many hotels are already contracting for international business up to two years out.
“Tourism is highly competitive, yet they have no pricing certainty in relation to the retention of this critically important VAT measure and this could hamper their recovery.
“Hotels are focussed on restoring employment levels as quickly as possible and the best way to ensure that is to support the businesses.
“It is critical that we get certainty around supports for business recovery.
“We cannot afford any delay if businesses are to have a fighting chance of survival. Prior to the pandemic, some 25,300 livelihoods were supported by tourism and hospitality here in Cork with the sector contributing €895 million to the local economy.
“A severely devastated hotel sector would be a major loss to Cork’s economy and society for many years to come. This can and must be avoided,” Mr Harte added.
The IHF survey was carried out on March 8-10, and the results are based on the response of 303 properties with 31,150 guest rooms spread across the country.