Hotels and guesthouses across the country are facing their harshest ever start to a new year due to a collapse in room occupancy figures, according to the latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

The survey was carried out on 15 – 17th December 2020 and the results are based on the responses of 290 properties with 30,650 guest room capacity spread across the country.

Booking levels for hotel rooms of 8% are being reported for January, dropping back to 6% for February. This follows already historically low occupancy levels of 25% reported for December.

IHF Chief Executive Tim Fenn 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 over the past week. While any increase is very welcome, hotels are still experiencing a dramatic fall in business levels, when compared to the 60% reached in 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, when business levels tend to be lower. 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.

“Yet, due to an anomaly in how the Government has structured the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, hotels are now being excluded 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.

“With the local authority rates waiver due to lapse on 31st December 2020, the IHF is also seeking an extension of the period for a further six months at least – to 30th June 2021. “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,” added Mr Fenn.

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