• Cyril McAree

HOTELIERS CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO CONSULT BUSINESSES ON NEW ROAD MAP

Hoteliers are calling on the Government to consult all areas of society that have been negatively impacted by Covid-19, including businesses, when developing the Roadmap for Resilience and Recovery, which they intend to publish ahead of 13th September. Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, President of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), states that public health goes hand in hand with ensuring a viable economy when this pandemic has passed. “People must have livelihoods. Prior to Covid-19, tourism supported almost 270,000 jobs, making it Ireland’s largest indigenous employer. It is a key driver in communities the length and breadth of the country in both economic and social terms. With the right supports and longer term planning, it can be an engine for recovery, delivering jobs and regional balance to the economy,” she said.


The latest figures for the hotel and guesthouse sector show that occupancy levels reached 42% for July and 49% August, the peak months for tourism. This compares to an average of 90% last year. Meanwhile, hotels are reporting average occupancy levels of 23% for September and 17% for October based on current bookings, which the IHF President says highlights the significant challenges facing the sector.


However, Ms Fitzgerald Kane is confident that tourism can recover. “Ireland still has enormous potential as a tourism destination. But, we are at a critical juncture. With ongoing restrictions, the Government must provide more sector specific supports to safeguard the livelihoods of the almost 270,000 employed pre-Covid. Tourism created some 90,000 new jobs following the financial crisis, demonstrating our industry’s ability to rebound given the right supports.”


“As the Government has acknowledged, businesses require greater certainty so they can plan forward. The supports announced so far, including those contained in the July stimulus, are all welcome but they only offer short-term fixes and particularly against the backdrop of ongoing public health restrictions. What is necessary is an active, intensive and sustained public policy support framework to steer the tourism and hospitality industry through the crisis. This is justified by the scale of the national and regional economic output and employment at stake,” she said.


Ms Fitzgerald added that additional interventions are necessary in the form of sector specific measures. ”We learned from the financial crisis that speed is of the essence. If implemented these measures will go a long way to ensure the survival and long-term stability of many tourism businesses and safeguard their important contribution to their local economies. Hotels and guesthouses are a key component of tourism. In addition to providing local employment opportunities, they buy local services, source locally produced food and provide a vital infrastructure in support of local business and communities. Failure to support the tourism sector could have far reaching implications


Commenting on the latest restrictions announced by the Government earlier this week, the IHF President said that hoteliers recognise the difficult balance the Government has to achieve. She described the latest restrictions as very disappointing. “Given the efforts made by so many people and businesses, including hotels, we had been hoping to see a further relaxation of existing measures by now. We will be living with Covid-19 for some time to come. This highlights the imperative of having a comprehensive testing, tracing and monitoring regime in place. This would allow society to remain open and also facilitate an expansion of safe travel as soon as possible. People who are healthy could be tested before travelling and provide verification that they do not pose a risk. A joint European approach would be a good starting point for such a regime. This would help open up travel in a safe way aligned with public health policy,” she said.

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