Hoteliers welcome progress on roadmap for reopening tourism

Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

Ireland’s hotel and guesthouse community have welcomed the Taoiseach’s announcement today on the reopening of society in which he said that the Government will look in May at the reopening of hotels and guesthouses in June. Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, President of the Irish Hotels Federation stated: “this is very encouraging news for people seeking a well-deserved break and for the many thousands of people employed across the tourism sector who are currently laid off.”

“Public health remains the number one priority and we recognise that continued progress on the roll-out of the vaccination programme is critical. Everyone is keen that the reopening of society is safe and sustainable and for this Level 5 lockdown to be the last. People across the country want to look forward to staycations. Equally, the more than 65,000 people across Ireland who were employed in the hotel & guesthouse sector before Covid-19 restrictions want an indication as to when their livelihoods may be to be restored.

“Today’s announcement gives an impetus now for our sector to plan for reopening in earnest as part of the survival and recovery of Irish hotels and guesthouses as well as the broader tourism community. We look forward to continuing to engage with the Government towards a safe and sustainable reopening.

“Our members have been reporting historically low bookings for the key summer months of July and August due to the uncertainty over the timeframe for easing restrictions. While we are some way off achieving certainty, today will hopefully increase confidence that people will be able to enjoy a much needed break or extended holiday in Ireland this summer and in doing so will restore the livelihoods of so many across the country.

Hoteliers are continuing to seek certainty over business and employment supports. Ms Fitzgerald Kane added: “Hotels are focussed on restoring employment levels as quickly as possible. Government supports to date have been very welcome and are providing life support for the tourism and hospitality community. We have been repeatedly told that there will be no “cliff edge” but we need greater clarity and certainty around supports into 2022 and beyond.

“Specifically, we are seeking increases in payments under the Covid Restrictions Supports Scheme (CRSS) with a doubling of payment amounts irrespective of the level of Covid restrictions as well as removal of the current €5,000 weekly cap. We estimate that 44% of hotel bedroom stock is excluded from CRSS entirely, and this must be resolved as a matter of urgency.”

“Continued employment subsidies are also necessary as are rates waivers similar to what we see in Scotland.  We also need a doubling of reopening grants to reflect the true cost of restarting. 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 the pandemic has passed. Concession-based moratoria for businesses and their teams are critical.  Hotels also require a clear commitment from the Government to retain the 9% tourism VAT rate. Many hotels are already contracting for international business up to two years out. Tourism is highly competitive, yet hotels have no pricing certainty in relation to the retention of this critically important VAT measure and this could hamper their recovery and particularly given that 9% is the right rate of VAT vis a vis our European competitors”.

“We appreciate the many challenges facing the Government in trying to reopen society safely and we look forward to continuing to work with them to make that happen safely and sustainably. Tourism can recover and be a key driver of economic growth. But that requires greater certainty over business supports. Hotels and guesthouses are a key component of tourism’s infrastructure. A failure to support the sector in the short-term could have ramifications for the future of Ireland’s tourism offering and for the economy that could take years to remedy,” Ms Fitzgerald Kane added.

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