The scale of the impact caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on the hotel and guesthouse sector has been highlighted in new industry research released by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) at its annual conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel, in Cavan.
According to the IHF, across Ireland, more than nine million bed nights were lost in 2021 when compared to 2019, rising to 19 million lost bed nights when 2020 is also included. The nationwide survey of hotels and guesthouses further reveals that average annual turnover decreased by 48% in 2021. Nationally, hotels and guesthouses registered an average occupancy of 33% in 2021, compared to 73% in 2019, with Dublin City seeing an even steeper decrease, at 25% occupancy. Average hotel room occupancy for the first two months of 2022 stood at 38%, compared to 63% for the same period in 2019. Looking to the key summer months, forward bookings stand at 39% for this year, compared to an average occupancy of 88% for the same period in 2019.
The IHF’s survey also reveals that 63% of hoteliers plan to invest in sustainability initiatives, largely focusing on insulation, waste reduction, green energy, and water conservation, while 32% expressed a desire to invest in sustainability initiatives, but will not be in a position to do so this year.
Statements By IHF President
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Addressing over 450 delegates at the annual conference, IHF president Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said that while the green shoots of recovery are emerging, recovery to 2019 levels is likely to be a number of years away. Fitzgerald Kane called on the government to support the tourism industry recovery by cancelling an increase in tourism VAT planned for September, and to do everything within its power to tackle spiralling business costs across energy, insurance, water and rates.
Fitzgerald Kane stated, “The past two years have been the most challenging in the history of Ireland’s hotel and guesthouse sector. IHF members, and indeed the entire tourism and hospitality sector, saw most of their business vanish overnight. While domestic tourism and staycations enabled many businesses to keep their heads above water, average occupancy for 2021 was just 33%. International visitors – the heartbeat of Ireland’s tourism industry, with more than €7.25 billion in foreign-exchange earnings in 2019 – slowed to a trickle. Pre-Covid, we welcomed over ten million overseas visitors to our country annually, supporting jobs and livelihoods in every town and village in the country. The scale of the decimation of the entire sector is unprecedented.
“Whilst we are optimistic for the future, the pace of recovery is disappointingly slow. Our research shows that for January and February this year, we are down almost a million bed nights, compared to the first two months of 2019. For the critical holiday months – June to September – current hotel and guesthouse room bookings for 2022 are way below par, averaging 39%, compared to an average occupancy of 88% for the same period in 2019. This highlights the scale of the ground to be made up in advance of the summer.”
Fitzgerald Kane said that despite concerns on the slow uptake in bookings this year, the hotel sector is resilient and will recover in time, but that it urgently requires support and interventions at a national level to control spiralling businesses costs.
She stated, “We operate hotels and guesthouses in one of the most beautiful, friendly and dynamic countries in the world. Our members are eager to rebuild, not just their own businesses, but the entire tourism industry, which supports an estimated 270,000 jobs pre-pandemic – one in ten of all Irish jobs – 70% of which are outside Dublin.
“Notwithstanding the many challenges facing the sector, almost seven in ten hotels and guesthouses (68%) are positive or very positive for the year ahead. Rebuilding tourism to pre-Covid levels is the singular focus of the entire industry, in partnership with state agencies and government. We will do what we can to control our cost bases, however, we require government measures that must have a positive influence on those areas outside our control, in particular, escalating business costs – whether they are in insurance, energy or rates – to assist Ireland to retain its cost competitiveness within the international tourism arena.”
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