Cork hotelier warns hotels could shut by January without more support 

Cork hotelier warns hotels could shut by January without more support 

Some 44% of hotel owners nationwide are expecting hits in excess of 75% to their revenues this month. Pic: SkitterPhoto/Pexels

A CORK hotelier has warned that many hotels and guesthouses could be shut by January without more Government support.

Hotel owners are calling on the Government to review what they have described as “shortcomings” in the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) as many face revenue drops in excess of 75% this month.

General manager of Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire, Michael Magner, is among those to have experienced a significant hit.

Mr Magner said it cost €55,000 a month just to maintain the building’s heating, electricity, and IT systems during lockdown.

The entrepreneur is just one of many hotel owners struggling, following a 91% drop in hotel revenue nationwide in the month of November alone.

Some 44% of hotel owners nationwide are expecting hits in excess of 75% to their revenues this month.

According to the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), an anomaly in how the CRSS is structured means that despite the record drops in revenue for December, these hotels will be excluded from the scheme.

A recent survey from the IHF reported occupancy levels of just 22% in hotels and guesthouses this month, as bookings plunge compared to December, 2019.

Fergal Harte, general manager of The Kingsley Hotel and chairman of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels Federation. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Fergal Harte, general manager of The Kingsley Hotel and chairman of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels Federation. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Chairperson of the IHF Cork branch, Fergal Harte, said that occupancy levels are expected to be at a mere 21% in the South West.

He added that severe restrictions, including the prohibition of travel until December 18, has resulted in “historically low” room bookings in the lead up to Christmas.

Mr Harte described the knock-on effect on food and beverage revenues at a time when bookings for Christmas parties have been wiped out by Covid restrictions.

“Public health is the number one priority, and we support the Government’s aim of reopening the country safely,” Mr Harte said.

“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 Cork, of which hotels are a key component, supported 25,300 jobs and generated €895m in local revenues.”

Mr Magner said that hotels cannot afford to keep losing money.

“We want to play our part and do what’s right,” he said.

“While supports are welcome, VAT reductions are irrelevant if a business isn’t bringing in revenue. The cost of overheads is still there. The cost of keeping my business closed was €55,000 as bookings still need to go in.

General manager of Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire, Michael Magner, is among those to have experienced a significant hit. Picture: Howard Crowdy
General manager of Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire, Michael Magner, is among those to have experienced a significant hit. Picture: Howard Crowdy

“This wasn’t going into wages or food purchases. We now have to stay open in very difficult circumstances. Either way, we are going to lose money. We cannot afford to continuously lose money. Supports like the CRSS are vital for our sector.”

He fears that-without the Government’s help, many hotels and guesthouses could be shut by January.

“As a hotel, we are only feeding off the Cork market. Some hotels in Ireland don’t even have the population base to drive their business model. These are not normal trading circumstances. We are banned from catering for people from outside of the county. We are not permitted to take graduation parties of more than six people. Covid levels will increase, paving the way for tighter restrictions in January. If supports are not being provided I fear for the future of other businesses out there.”

He said operating amid restrictions is presenting considerable difficulties.

“Our turnover will be down 75% compared to last year. We have 18 weddings for the month of December. However, the numbers of these combined only add up to the number we might have had at one wedding before.”

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