Nine Million Hotel Bednights Lost in 2021: Scale of Pandemic Impact on Irish Hotel Sector Laid Bare
- Turnover for hotels down 48% in 2021 compared to 2019 pre-Covid levels
- Nine million hotel bednights lost in 2021 compared to 2019
- Hotel room occupancy in first two months of 2022 38% vs 63% for same period in 2019
- Summer bookings months averaging 39%; vs occupancy of 88% summer 2019.
Cavan, Tuesday, 28th March 2022: The scale of the impact caused by the pandemic on the hotel and guesthouse sector has been highlighted in new industry research released today by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) at its annual conference in the Slieve Russel Hotel in Cavan.
Across Ireland, more than nine million bednights were lost in 2021 when compared to 2019, rising to 19 million bednights lost when 2020 is also included. The survey of hotels and guesthouses nationwide further reveals that average annual turnover almost halved (48%) in 2021. Nationally, hotels and guest houses registered an average occupancy of just 33% in 2021 compared to 73% in 2019, with Dublin City seeing an even steeper decrease at just 25% occupancy. Average hotel room occupancy for the first two months of 2022 stood at just 38%, compared to 63% for the same period in 2019. Looking to the key summer months, forward bookings stand at just 39% for this year, compared with an average occupancy of 88% for the same period in 2019.
The IHF’s survey also reveals that two out of three (63%) are planning to invest in sustainability initiatives largely focussing on insulation, waste reduction, green energy and water conservation. A further third (32%) expressed a desire to invest in sustainability initiatives but said they will not be in a position to do so this year.
Addressing over 450 delegates, IHF President Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said that while green shoots of recovery are emerging, recovery to 2019 levels is likely to be a number of years away. She called on the Government to support the tourism industry recovery by cancelling an increase in tourism VAT planned for September, and to do everything within its power to tackle spiralling business costs across energy, insurance, water and rates.
“The past two years have been the most challenging in the history of Ireland’s hotel and guesthouse sector. IHF members, and indeed the entire tourism and hospitality sector, saw most of their business vanish overnight. While domestic tourism and ‘staycations’ enabled many businesses to keep their heads above water, average occupancy for 2021 was just 33%. International visitors – the heartbeat of Ireland’s tourism industry, with more €7.25 billion in foreign exchange earnings in 2019 – slowed to a trickle. Pre-Covid, we welcomed over 10 million overseas visitors to our country annually, supporting jobs and livelihoods in every town and village in the country. The scale of the decimation of the entire sector is unprecedented.
“Whilst we are optimistic for the future, the pace of recovery is disappointingly slow. Our research shows that for January and February this year we are down almost a million bednights compared to the first two months of 2019. For the critical holiday months (June-Sept), current hotel and guesthouse room bookings for 2022 are way below par averaging 39% compared to an average occupancy of 88% for the same period in 2019. This highlights the scale of the ground to be made up in advance of the summer.
Ms. Fitzgerald Kane said that despite concerns on the slow uptake in bookings this year, the hotel sector was resilient and would recover in time, but that it urgently required support and interventions at national level to control spiralling businesses costs.
“We operate hotels and guesthouses in one of the most beautiful, friendly and dynamic countries in the world. Our members are eager to rebuild not just their own businesses but the entire tourism industry – which supports an estimated 270,000 jobs pre-pandemic, one in 10 of all Irish jobs, 70% of which are outside Dublin.
“Notwithstanding the many challenges facing the sector, almost 7 in 10 hotels and guesthouses (68%) are positive or very positive for the year ahead. Rebuilding tourism to pre-Covid levels is the singular focus of the entire industry, in partnership with state agencies and Government. We will do what we can to control our cost bases, however, we require Government measures that must have a positive influence on those areas outside our control – in particular escalating business costs, whether they are in insurance, energy or rates – to assist Ireland to retain its cost competitiveness within the international tourism arena.”