HOTEL and guesthouse owners in Cork and across the country are welcoming the increase in bookings that has followed the Government’s recent announcement that hotels will reopen on June 2. The latest industry survey* from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) shows booking levels nationally now average 31% for July and 27% for August – the key summer months.
This compares to levels of 23% and 21% respectively just ahead of the announcement. As hotels and guesthouses across the country prepare to reopen Fergal Harte, chair of the Cork branch of the IHF, is calling on the Government to facilitate the return of vaccinated overseas travellers quickly to give a clear sign to overseas markets too that Ireland is open for business again, similar to reopening announcements in other European countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Malta.
“The increase in bookings in the past fortnight has been a welcome morale boost to our members and the thousands of people employed in Irish hotels. The domestic market was a real positive last year and we expect home holidays to be very important for the sector again this year.
"Not surprisingly, as indicated by our latest survey, we would expect to see stronger demand in popular tourism destinations and hotels offering packages and facilities for families. However, we would encourage people to explore all parts across the country, as they did last year. There is excellent value available.
"Guests should shop around and contact hotels directly to find out what special offers are available, including mid-week specials for those whose dates are flexible.” While hotels and guesthouses are not banking on significant overseas visitors this year, Mr Harte is calling on the Government to implement the EU Covid-19 Travel Certificate, expected to be approved by the EU next month, as quickly as possible.
“This would send a very clear signal that Ireland is reopening for tourism when it is safe to travel and will facilitate the necessary lead times for planning holidays and business travel. As an island nation international tourism is critically important, accounting for over 70% of tourism revenue pre-Covid."
He also welcomed the agreement reached by EU member states last week to allow fully vaccinated visitors from outside the EU to enter the bloc this summer for holidays. He called on the Government to implement the agreement at the earliest opportunity, which would allow vaccinated travellers from other key markets such as the USA, who typically travel in the autumn.
“This would be very important in extending the season for many Irish tourism businesses.” Mr Harte also called for a firm commitment from government on business and employment supports for the sector into 2022.
“The summer months are very important and the uplift we are seeing in booking levels is a clear indicator that the recovery of Irish tourism is underway. However, overall, a slow recovery is still expected in 2021. Our industry has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and with some level of restrictions likely for some time to come, tourism recovery is not going to begin in earnest until 2022.
"The hotel and guesthouse sector is a vital part of tourism infrastructure. More than 65,000 people across Ireland were employed in the sector before Covid-19 restrictions. Hotels, including here in Cork are focused on restoring these livelihoods as quickly as possible. While employment and business supports to date have been very welcome, it is essential that the Government provides greater clarity and certainty now around supports into 2022 and beyond so businesses can plan properly.
“Specifically, we are seeking for the EWSS to remain in place until the end of March 2022, an extension of the Local Authority Rates waiver until the end of March 2022 similar to what has been put in place in Scotland. We also ask that the Covid Restrictions Supports Scheme (CRSS), targeting businesses with a 75% drop in revenue, be doubled irrespective of the level of Covid restrictions and the €5,000 weekly cap to be removed, along with the doubling of reopening grants to reflect the scale of reopening costs after months of prolonged closure.
“The 9% VAT is a critical measure for international competitiveness and must be in place until 2025 to assist recovery and secure a viable and sustainable future for the industry,” he added. It is the right rate of VAT vis a vis other European countries."