Hotel sector’s recovery to pre-Covid trade ‘within a few years’, warns IHF

The hotel sector is unlikely to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels of commerce for “a number of years”, with occupancy levels this summer still expected to lag significantly behind 2019.

At its annual conference in Cavan, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said that while it was optimistic about the future, the pace of recovery in the sector is “disappointingly slow”.

He said the scale of the decimation of the hospitality and tourism sector, due to the Covid crisis, had been “unprecedented”.

Average hotel turnover fell 48% last year from pre-Covid 2019 levels, while 9 million hotel nights were lost.

Hotel room occupancy in the first two months of this year was 38%, compared to 63% for the same period in 2019. Summer bookings for this year are currently averaging 39%, compared to 88 % in summer 2019.

“The past two years have been the most difficult in the history of the hospitality and bed and breakfast industry in Ireland,” said IHF President Elaina Fitzgerald Kane.

“IHF members, and indeed the entire tourism and hospitality sector, have seen most of their business disappear overnight,” she said.

Hotelier Ciara O’Grady, The Gleneagle Group, Killarney at the Irish Federation of Hotels Annual Conference at the Slieve Russell Hotel, Cavan. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Ms Fitzgerald Kane said green shoots of recovery were emerging in the sector, but warned recovery to 2019 levels was likely to be “several years away”.

She said the hospitality sector was “resilient” and would recover “in time”. However, she said it “urgently” needed support and interventions to control spiraling business costs.

“Notwithstanding the many challenges facing the sector, almost seven out of 10 hotels and guesthouses are positive or very positive for the year ahead. Rebuilding tourism to pre-Covid levels is the singular goal of the entire industry, in partnership with state agencies and government,” Ms Fitzgerald Kane said.

The IHF has called on the government to tackle rising insurance costs and keep the hospitality VAT rate at 9%

Peter M. Doran