Irish hotels have pleaded for an emergency Government support package after warning that tough new Covid-19 control measures have seen winter occupancy rates collapse to below 9pc in some areas.
The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) revealed the weekly rate of new bookings has plummeted by 67pc after Dublin and Donegal were placed in Level Three lockdowns and four other counties now face the threat of lockdowns from Thursday.
Average October occupancy rates are now just 26pc, falling to a mere 9pc in November.
Room occupancy rates were 51pc in September but have more than halved in the space of four weeks.
One Kerry hotelier warned that the industry is facing up to the reality that foreign tourists aren’t likely in Ireland until late next year – with massive pressure on both earnings and operating costs.
General Manager of the Cahernane House Hotel in Killarney, Emer Corridan, said hoteliers face a stark six to nine months ahead.
She said occupancy rates have been dropping and, most alarming of all, there have been a number of cancellations from domestic holidaymakers who had been fuelling the ‘staycation’ drive to offset the loss of foreign tourism earnings.
“The IHF has put together a budget submission and we are looking for certain items that hopefully the Government will look at to support the sector,” she said.
“We need the VAT rate reduced and the subsidy scheme to be extended for employees. There are 15,500 jobs supported across Kerry alone at the moment and there is a risk to those jobs over the winter time.”
“It is vital that the Government take note of what the industry needs.”
General Manager of the Kingsley Hotel in Cork, Fergal Harte, warned that the industry was now facing “make or break time.”
“Urgent and unprecedented intervention from the Government is required to support tourism businesses and safeguard thousands of jobs throughout the sector. This must form a central plank of the Budget due to be announced next month,” he warned.
“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Cork’s tourism and hospitality industry supported 25,300 jobs and generated €895m in revenues annually for the local economy.”
“We are now facing a deepening crisis with 18,600 tourism jobs across Cork at risk this year and local tourism revenues forecast to drop by €670m as businesses fight for survival.”
“The outlook is exceptionally difficult and highlights the requirement for urgent immediate sectoral specific measures for tourism. This situation is nothing short of disastrous for our sector with serious implications for the tourism industry and wider economy.”
In its Budget 2021 submission, the IHF wants the VAT rate cut, employment subsidies extended, a waiver on local authority rates and greater access to short-term funding via Irish banks.
The industry stressed that the ‘staycation’ boom highlighted what could be achieved with targeted action.
However, greater support is needed if hotels are to make it through the lean winter season and be ready for 2021.
Irish tourism attracts 10.9 million foreign visitors each year with the sector accounting for 4pc of GNP.
Tourism alone contributed €9.2bn to the economy last year.
Over 90,000 new jobs were created by the sector since 2011.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Irish tourism supported over 260,000 jobs – one in ten jobs within the entire Irish workforce.
More than 60,000 jobs were within the hotel sector alone.