Hotels and guesthouses in Sligo and Leitrim are facing their harshest ever start to a new year due to a collapse in room occupancy figures according to the latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).
In the Border region, which covers counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan, booking levels for hotel rooms of just 7% are being reported for January, dropping back to a mere 6% for February. This follows already historically low occupancy levels of 18% reported for December.
Chair of the IHF Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon branch, Michael Yates is calling on the Government not to renege on its budget commitment to the sector, urging it to review the operation of its Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) which currently excludes hotels.
“The easing of inter-county travel tomorrow (Friday, 18th) has led to a marginal increase in bookings over the past week. While any increase is very welcome, hotels are still experiencing a dramatic fall in business levels, when compared to December last year. Traditionally, the four weeks of Christmas trading are absolutely vital to hotels in terms of sustaining them during the first few months of the following year, when business levels tend to be lower. Business has been effectively wiped out this year due to Government restrictions while continued uncertainty over Covid restrictions is having a devastating effect on bookings for the start of next year.
“Yet, due to an anomaly2 in how the Government has structured the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, hotels are now being excluded despite a record fall in revenues, even where they meet the required 75% drop in turnover3. We are calling on the Government to review the operation of the scheme as a matter of urgency.
With the local authority rates waiver due to lapse on 31st December 2020, the IHF is also seeking an extension of the period for a further six months at least – to 30th June 2021. “The time-period should coincide with business interruption due to Covid. After that, payment of local authority rates should be based on reduced levels of activity due to the crisis and until the industry has recovered. Businesses cannot be expected to pay rates on historical turnover figures that do not reflect the significantly lower levels of business that hoteliers are experiencing. Pre-Covid, tourism in Sligo and Leitrim, of which hotels are a key component, supported 4,900 jobs and generated €178m in local revenues,” added Mr Yates.
Commenting on the lifting of inter-county travel restrictions, Mr Yates said: “Hotels and guesthouses in Sligo and Leitrim are looking forward to welcoming guests back over the festive period and really appreciate the support shown by customers throughout what been a year of unprecedented challenges for the hospitality sector. One thing is for certain, guests can be assured of a very warm welcome, with hoteliers throughout the country pulling out all the stops to ensure they have a truly enjoyable, very safe and well-deserved break away this Christmas.”
Breakdown of occupancy results for December ‘20 / January ’21 / February ‘21:
National room occupancy: 25% Dec (8% Jan / 6% Feb)
Dublin City and County: 25% Dec (6% Jan / 5% Feb)
Other Cities: 33% Dec (10% Jan / 6% Feb)
Border region: 18% Dec (7% Jan / 6% Feb)
Mid-West: 29% Dec (8% Jan / 6% Feb)
Midlands / Mid East: 34% Dec (11% Jan / 8% Feb)
South East: 27% Dec (13% Jan / 10% Feb)
South West: 22% Dec (8% Jan / 5% Feb)
West: 24% Dec (10% Jan / 8% Feb)
**see note below for description of regions