The latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has revealed that hotel and guesthouses are reporting occupancy levels of just 22% nationally for December, as bookings plunge compared to December 2019.

With inter-county travel prohibited until 18th December, IHF President Elaina Fitzgerald Kane says that hotels continue to operate under severe restrictions resulting in historically low room bookings in the lead up to Christmas.

This is having a knock-on effect on food and beverage revenues and comes at a time when bookings for corporate events and Christmas parties have been wiped out due to Covid restrictions.

Following a 91% drop in revenues in November, hotels are now projecting a 72% drop on average for the first three weeks of December with 44% expecting falls in excess of 75%. Despite these record drops in revenue for December, an anomaly in how the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme is structured means that these hotels will be excluded from the scheme. The reason being cited by Government is that people are not being restricted from entering a hotel, they are simply being restricted from ‘leaving their county’ in order to enter a hotel. The effect of this ‘nuanced’ interpretation of the wording is that most hotel accommodation business is being restricted but accommodation providers are specifically excluded from qualifying under Level 3 restrictions even where they meet the required 75% drop in turnover criteria.

Ms Fitzgerald Kane called on the Government to review this shortcoming in the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) as a matter of urgency. “Currently accommodation providers can only accept bookings from within their county, which represents only a very small proportion of hotel accommodation at this time of year. The result is that, in order to comply with Government restrictions, accommodation providers are required to restrict the vast majority of their usual customer base from accessing their premises. This is having an enormous impact, leading to a collapse in turnover. Surely a 75% reduction in turnover due to the Government specifically not allowing people leave their county is exactly the type of devastating situation that the CRSS was intended to support?”

“Public health is the No 1 priority, and we support the Government’s aim of reopening the country safely. 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 calling on the Government to reconsider their approach to the operation of the CRSS so that further damage is not done to the sector,” said Ms Fitzgerald Kane.

The IHF survey was carried out during the week of Monday, 7th December and the results are based on the response of 278 properties with 30,700 guest rooms spread across the country.

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