As reported in The Irish News, the Omicron Hospitality Payment Scheme is to be extended to include hotels, Stormont’s finance minister, Conor Murphy, has announced.
Hotels, along with certain sports clubs, will now be able to apply for a one-off grant of £10,000 to £20,000 under the scheme’s extension.
Omicron Hospitality Payment Scheme
The initial £40 million scheme to assist hospitality businesses facing financial turmoil over the Omicron Covid-19 variant was announced last month by Murphy, with businesses including nightclubs, bars and restaurants able to apply for a grant.
To date, over £23.7 million has been issued to 1,936 businesses, but hotels were among hospitality venues initially excluded from applying.
Denise Hunt, owner of the Londonderry Arms in Carnlough, said that hotels “need to know what plans are there for financial support” in the face of reduced business caused by Covid.
Another hotel owner – Ken Sharp, of the Salty Dog in Bangor, Co. Down – said that staff were enduring a “climate of fear” over the ongoing uncertainty caused by reduced takings.
This week, Conor Murphy said that hotels were a “vital part of our hospitality industry and have undoubtedly been impacted by Omicron, facing cancellations over the festive period.”
Murphy added, “I was determined to ensure hotels were not left without support, and in the absence of a bid for funding for a scheme to help this sector being brought forward, my department has again taken the lead and obtained executive approval to include hotels in the Omicron Hospitality Payment Scheme.”
Hotel Owners Frustrated
The Salty Dog’s Ken Sharp told The Irish News that while he welcomed the extension, there remained a “frustration” that hotels were not initially included.
“There’s a sense that hotels are all thought of as the Grand Central, when, in reality, a third of the trade is smaller, family-run hotels that desperately needed assistance at the same time as other hospitality businesses,” Sharp said.
Meanwhile, the scheme extension was welcomed by the chief executive of the NI Hotel Federation, Janice Gault.
“For most hotels, December is their busiest month, and trade secured helps to mitigate losses that traditionally occur in the first two months of the new year,” Gault said.
“Hotel premises experienced a reduction of up to 60% on food, beverage and function business. Hoteliers are pleased their plight has been recognised in a similar way to other components of the hospitality industry.”