THE sun may be shining here in the wild west but the road to health is still a rocky one for the tourism sector. That is how Westport hotelier and IHF Mayo Chairperson Darren Madden views the coming season, which really needs a boost from consumer confidence through early bookings.
Whilst Madden acknowledges ‘the positive developments around the vaccine rollout coupled with the Taoiseach’s announcement around the reopening of hotels (possibly in June), projected figures for occupancy still lag behind last year’s.
Citing the latest Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) survey, Mr Madden says: “Recovery will be a challenge for the hotel sector this year, requiring continued Government support through to 2022, when the tourism industry should start to recover in earnest.” He was responding to the survey results that show the average national booking levels at 23 percent for July and 21 percent for August.
“Staycations were a real positive last summer and we expect booking levels to continue to rise over the coming weeks. Not surprisingly, as indicated by our latest survey, we would expect to see stronger demand in coastal areas, popular tourism destinations and hotels offering packages and facilities for families. However, we would encourage people to explore all parts across the country, as they did last year.
“There is excellent value available. Guests should contact hotels directly to find out what special offers are available and shop around,” Darren Madden says.
Continuing, he notes that while ‘the extensive availability across the country may be good news for consumers, it highlights the ongoing challenges facing the hotel sector’.
“Tourism supported some 5,800 livelihoods in Mayo before Covid-19 restrictions, contributing €208 million to the local economy. Hotels are focused on restoring employment levels as quickly as possible. While employment and business supports to date have been very welcome, it is essential that the Government now provides greater clarity and certainty now around supports into 2022 and beyond.”
Mr Madden believes the sector needs increased payments under the Covid Restrictions Supports Scheme (CRSS), enhanced employment subsidies, extension of the local authority rates waiver until the end of March next year. “We also ask the Government to intervene with the banks to ensure they have appropriate supports and engagement processes in place for hotels and their team members until Covid-19 has been suppressed.”
Mr Madden adds: “Hotels also require a clear commitment from the Government to retain the 9 percent tourism VAT rate to assist recovery and secure a viable and sustainable future for the industry. Wait and see is not a sustainable business strategy.”
THE IHF survey was carried out in early April and was based on the responses of 330 properties with 32,850 guest rooms spread across the country.
The breakdown of figures shows that the south-west (Cork and Kerry) and south-east (Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford) regions fare best with occupancy figures for July, for example, at 38 percent and 35 percent respectively. Meanwhile, the west (Mayo, Galway and Roscommon) is at 29 percent for July and Dublin city and county at a worryingly low 11 percent for the same month.