'Business has been effectively wiped out': Occupancy levels in Cork hotels hit record lows

'Business has been effectively wiped out': Occupancy levels in Cork hotels hit record lows

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

HOTELS and guesthouses in Cork are facing a bleak start to the new year due to a huge collapse in room occupancy figures according to the latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation.

In the South West, booking levels for hotel rooms of just 8% are being reported for January, dropping back to a mere 5% for February. 

This follows already historically low occupancy levels of 22% reported for December.

Chair of the IHF Cork branch, Mr Fergal Harte is calling on the Government not to renege on its budget commitment to the sector, urging it to review the operation of its Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) which currently excludes hotels.

“The easing of inter-county travel has led to a marginal increase in bookings. Hotels are still experiencing a dramatic fall in business levels when compared to December last year. 

"Traditionally, the four weeks of Christmas trading are absolutely vital to hotels in terms of sustaining them during the first few months of the following year. 

"Business has been effectively wiped out this year due to government restrictions, while continued uncertainty over Covid restrictions is having a devastating effect on bookings for the start of next year.

“Hotels are now being excluded from the CRSS despite a record fall in revenues, even where they meet the required 75% drop in turnover. We are calling on the government to review the operation of the scheme as a matter of urgency,” he said.

The IHF is also seeking an extension of the local authority rates waiver period for a further six months said the chairperson. “The time-period should coincide with business interruption due to Covid. After that, payment of local authority rates should be based on reduced levels of activity due to the crisis and until the industry has recovered. 

"Businesses cannot be expected to pay rates on historical turnover figures that do not reflect the significantly lower levels of business that hoteliers are experiencing. Pre-Covid, tourism in Cork, of which hotels are a key component, supported 25,300 jobs and generated €895m in local revenues,” added Mr Harte.

The chair of the IHF Cork branch said hotels and guesthouses are looking forward to the festive season. “They really appreciate the support shown by customers throughout what has been a year of unprecedented challenges.”

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