Hotel and guesthouse owners are calling on the Government to clarify next week what the reopening of the sector will look like, writes Shauna McCrudden
After a long lockdown, where hotels kept shut for months on end, hoteliers are understandably concerned for the recovery of their sector. They are seeking a commitment to specific measures and supports for reopening, including inter-County travel that will enable businesses to plan effectively for a safe and sustainable reopening.
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, President of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) says, “With June just over a month away, hotel bookings nationally are at an historic low, currently averaging only 22% for the key months of July and August. It is critical that the Government gives clarity to consumers and businesses as a matter of urgency.
“We are asking the Government to outline a more detailed roadmap for reopening the hotel sector safely, based on clear progress markers for restrictions to be eased in line with public health improvements. While we recognise the challenges around public health and suppressing Covid, the ongoing lack of detail is jeopardising the viability of hotels and guesthouses, as they grapple with the financial and operational commitments required to be ready to reopen after months of prolonged closure.”
Elaina says booking levels have never been this low so close to the key summer months, which are a lifebuoy for many businesses for the remainder of the year. “Unless this is turned around quickly, there will be serious implications for the recovery of our sector that could take years to remedy.”
The Irish Hotels Federation is calling for the Government to commit to the following measures to enable hotels and guesthouses to reopen safely and sustainably:
- Inter-county travel to be permitted
- Hotels to be open to all patrons whether residents or not
- Capacity to be linked to function room size for events
- Outdoor capacity to be linked to space available
- Plans to be put in place for easing of restrictions for family gatherings such as weddings and christenings
- EU Digital Green Certificate to be adopted and plans to be put in place for other vaccinated international travellers
They also require a commitment on business and employment supports. These supports include:
- EWSS to remain in place until the end of March 2022
- Local Authority Rates waiver to remain in place until the end of March 2022
- Reopening grants to be doubled to reflect the scale of reopening costs after months of prolonged closure
- Covid Restrictions Supports Scheme (CRSS), targeting businesses with 75% drop in revenue, to be doubled irrespective of the level of Covid restrictions and the €5,000 weekly cap to be removed
- 9% VAT must be in place until 2025
- The Government to ensure that the banks have appropriate supports and engagement processes in place for hotels and their team members until Covid-19 has been suppressed.
“While the supports to date have been very welcome, it is essential that the Government provides greater clarity and certainty now around supports into 2022 and beyond,” says Elaina.“ “‘Wait and see’ is not the approach for sustainable business planning and job recovery.
“Public health remains our number one priority as we reopen society and the economy. The hotel sector has a vital role to play as part of this process in ensuring Irish tourism and hospitality returns to a more stable footing in the months ahead – helping to sustain thousands of businesses and almost 270,000 livelihoods throughout the country. These jobs represent 11% of total employment nationally and, with 70% located outside of Dublin, the regional contribution is vital to communities throughout the country, in every county and town.
“With over 160,000 tourism jobs lost over the last year, recovery of tourism and hospitality must be to the fore of Government economic policy as we seek to restore employment levels as quickly as possible.”
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