Impact of Covid-19 on Northern Ireland’s hotel sector to be discussed at Hospitality Exchange 2021

The impact of Covid-19 on the Northern Ireland hotel sector will be on the 2021 Hospitality Exchange agenda, but the focus will be firmly on the future and support to restore the industry to the pre-pandemic levels.

Taking place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel today and tomorrow (October 12-13), the two-day conference program will be a combination of analysis, advice and support for the hotel and hospitality industry after the period. perhaps the most difficult in recent history.

The 2021 lineup includes an update on the hotel market with a specially commissioned report by the Hotels Federation of Northern Ireland (NIHF) predicting that the industry will trade at around 40% below pre-market levels. pandemic of 2019 in terms of room sales and revenue. .

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NIHF President Stephen Meldrum

Activity has started to pull back as leisure activities return to a more normal fall and winter weekend pattern. Limited events and the slow return of business travel, along with confusion and constraints on international travel, will make the Monday-Thursday window more difficult to fill.

The impact of Covid-19 has been significant. The hotel sector entered 2021 with concern after a turbulent 2020. The area’s £ 650million investment in new and improved inventory in previous years had delivered an exceptional product, with the Northern Ireland hotel industry poised to capitalize on increased air access to all the islands, modern hotel park with a record number of rooms and a strong international interest in visiting the region.

Fast forward to Hospitality Exchange 2021, access, especially by air, has been decimated and being an island destination, it is imperative that this be restored.

Janice Gault, CEO of NIHF, said: “In 2020 the industry sold in the region of 1.15m rooms. By 2021, forecasts suggest that will increase to nearly 1.5 million pieces. Better performance but still far from 2019 levels. Staycations were the savior of the summer with support during final containment ensuring the survival of the sector.

“The hotel sector is the largest of Northern Ireland’s serviced accommodation sectors in terms of rooms, with over 140 hotels. Looking back over the past decade, the progress made by the hotel industry should not be underestimated. With a hotel investment of £ 800million, a record number of rooms – 9,627 in 145 properties with a TRevPAR of around £ 700million – have all been delivered.

“Before Covid-19, the sector also supported 13,000 jobs: 10,000 direct, 800 indirect and 2,200 induced. Today we are facing a human crisis. In March 2021, the Federation surveyed its members to assess the state of mind before the reopening and identify the challenges ahead. At that time, the focus was on reopening and what would constitute a sustainable and viable industrial framework. The remarkable figure was the number of employees needed to reopen, calculated at 2,565 of the hotel’s 145 premises.

“In May, the industry reopened albeit on a small scale, but the framework has proven to work for industry and customers. Some measures have been relaxed but the need to return to full service remains imperative. In September 2021, a new survey highlighted the perilous position of hotels vis-à-vis staff. Among those surveyed, 100% of companies needed additional staff and 85% had restricted their services based on their available workforce. The global figure of 1,400 vacancies sent shock waves through the industry. Fully operational hotels before the pandemic employed 10,000 people; the current level of vacancies is equivalent to 14% of the staffing needs of the hotel industry.

“This is a worrying development, especially as this situation is reflected in other sectors with high human intensity: food processing, construction, manufacturing and agriculture. They all tell a similar story. The job market has changed dramatically, with potential employees stating that job security is their number one priority.

NIHF President Stephen Meldrum explained: “Each year the NIHF commissions a report that explores a series of numbers related to the industry and its performance. This year’s Hotel Report shows that there are many challenges ahead. 2021 has turned out to be a year of surprises: some pleasant and others much less.

“Hotels were allowed to reopen on May 24, 2021. A number had traded throughout the lockdown offering accommodation for key areas and permitted stays. The consensus view suggests that those who remained open for essential business had a much easier return to a full trade since they were successful in maintaining better staff levels and did not have to endure the rigors of the relaunch of the company.

“The key for the hospitality industry is to be able to do business sustainably within a clear and achievable framework. The hotels have shown their resilience and determination. They have traded responsibly and they have a solid reputation. The support that has been received to date has been welcomed, but as the recovery becomes more stubborn, that support must continue for the industry to survive.

“The role of Northern Ireland’s new brand ‘Embrace a Giant Spirit’, backed by a major campaign, should not be underestimated and has been particularly effective south of the border. Images of large spaces, outdoor activities and relatively small urban dwellings resonated well with visitors and saw occupancy levels that were the envy of other regions.

Discussing the support the industry will need to survive, Janice Gault, CEO of NIHF, added, “At the local level, a number of business stimuli will help the industry through the winter months. Programs such as the “Spend Local” and “Stay at Home” vouchers are an important weapon in the “salvage artillery” and have been well received by businesses and consumers. There is considerable promotional activity in the market, and with a new brand, Northern Ireland seems to capture the imagination of visitors.

“Anecdotal reports suggest strong bookings from international markets wishing to visit the island of Ireland being seen as a safe and secure destination for post-pandemic travel. Ireland as an international destination has a good reputation, but the propensity to travel is currently low. There will be pent-up demand and I hope this endeavor can be completed at a future date. “

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Peter M. Doran