Hotel federation appeals to Mayo TDs


Michael Duffy

WHILE Mayo’s hotels and guesthouses enjoyed a busy spell once they reopened their doors during summer on June 29, the imposition of Level 3 restrictions last week means only guests from inside the county can now check-in.
Outdoor dining is also only available to 15 guests who are not residents so many of the smaller hotels across the county have now taken the decision to close their doors until mid-term at the very earliest, with the possibility that Level 3 restrictions may still be in place well after this date.
The Irish Hotel Federation (IHF) represents 52 different hospitality businesses across the county and the federation have recently written to Mayo’s four TDs to explain in stark terms how ‘bleak’ the next seven months look.
Darren Madden from the Clew Bay Hotel in Westport is the current Chair of the Mayo branch of the IHF and he explained in the correspondence to the TDs that now it’s ‘make or break’ for their industry.
“Quite simply, our industry is experiencing a disastrous collapse in business levels and now faces an imminent wave of further job losses – 100,000 tourism jobs have been lost across the country so far this year, and a further 100,000 jobs are now at immediate risk.
“Already operating under severely challenging conditions, hotels and guesthouses have seen revenues wiped out as a result of Level 3 restrictions, which stop guests from travelling outside their county. Properties are effectively empty with no ability to generate revenues and facing enormous uncertainty. Many now have to make very stark choices about lay-offs and whether they can stay open for the remainder of the year given the inadequate supports available,” said Mr Madden.
“Prior to Covid-19, tourism businesses across Mayo supported 5,800 jobs and generated €208 million in revenues annually for the local economy. This year with local tourism struggling under immense financial difficulties, 4,300 tourism jobs (almost 75 percent) are at risk across Mayo. These jobs matter – not only to the people working within the industry but also to the wider economy, especially the many parts of regional Ireland where tourism is the only show in town.”
The IHF will be watching today’s Budget eagerly as they have called for the following supports to be announced: Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) to be increased to the previous levels of €350/€410 per week for businesses that can demonstrate a 50 percent reduction in turnover for a 12-month period to March 31, 2021. The period for calculating the existing 30 percent reduction should also be extended on a similar basis; Reduction in Tourism VAT to 9 percent, to assist recovery and secure a viable and sustainable future for tourism. VAT on Irish Hotels is currently the second highest in Europe and higher than 30 European Countries; Liquidity measures are required to help fund hotels during the coming months as a result of the cash flow lost out due to Covid-19 restrictions, including an extension of the moratorium on bank term loans from six months to 12 months; Local Authority Rates Waiver extended for tourism businesses to coincide with business interruption due to Covid-19 and for a minimum of 12 months. 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.
Mr Madden added that these measures are simply to put tourism on a more stable footing, similar to the last financial crisis, when tourism created some 90,000 new jobs throughout the country.
“That demonstrated our industry’s ability to rebound given the right supports and policy priority. A failure to support this vital industry now will have ramifications for the future of Ireland’s tourism offering and for the economy that could take decades to remedy,” concluded Mr Madden.