The latest industry survey conducted by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) shows historically low occupancy levels of 23% and 26% for the peak summer months of July and August respectively, based on confirmed bookings, compared to an average of 90% for the same period last year.
Occupancy for September, traditionally a popular time for US visitors, currently stands at 22%.
IHF President Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said that the figures show there is plenty of availability in hotels and guesthouses right across the sector. However, she added that the substantial drop in occupancy levels highlighted the unprecedented challenges facing the sector and the requirement for immediate interventions to support tourism businesses.
“When we look across the water to the UK, we see the decisive action taken by UK Government in their Plan for Jobs. The slashing of their VAT rate from 20% to 5% is a clear sign of their commitment to support the recovery of their tourism and hospitality industry. Given how closely our economies are intertwined a similar cut here is necessary. The UK is not only our biggest market for overseas tourists, it is also our biggest competitor,” she said.
The IHF President also called for clarity on the guidelines for gatherings in light of the decision by the Northern Ireland Executive to allow the capacity for indoor gatherings including weddings to be determined by the size of the venue from 10th July.
“Currently capacity here is limited to 100 people regardless of the size of the venue. We are calling on the Government to allow hotels that can safely host larger weddings to do so based on the size and scale of the venues, rather than imposing a general limit on how many people can gather at any venue, regardless of safe capacity,” she added.
Almost 90% of hotels across the country are expected to be open again by the middle of the month. Ms. Fitzgerald Kane said that hotel and guesthouse owners have been heartened by the strong support from people who are donning the green jersey and taking a staycation this year. However, she said that this continues to be a critical time for the tourism industry, and the almost 270,000 livelihoods it supports.
“Time and again, tourism has proven itself as a hugely successful engine for economic growth, particularly in regional Ireland. In the aftermath of the last recession, tourism created 90,000 new jobs. Last year alone it generated over €9bn in revenue. We are committed to working closely with the Government and with Minister Catherine Martin to safeguard tourism, Ireland’s largest indigenous employer, so that it can play a key role again and be a significant lever in the country’s economic recovery. However, this requires specific sectoral supports now in relation to liquidity and competitiveness.”