Hotel report lays bare Covid-19 impact

Hotel report lays bare Covid-19 impact

The stark impact of Covid-19 on Northern Ireland’s hotel sector was revealed at Hospitality Exchange 2020, The Summit, which happened virtually this year on Wednesday (October 14).

Hosted by the BBC’s Mark Simpson, delegates were invited to live stream the programme, submit questions and take part in the discussion.

The 2020 line-up included an update on the hotel market with a specially commissioned report from the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) forecasting that at least 1 million fewer hotel rooms will be sold this year.  Overall, trading for the hotel sector is expected to fall to under £250m in 2020 – around one a third of the 2019 turnover figure.

Read the entire report here.

Janice Gault, CEO of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, described this year’s report as ‘more like a horror story than a fairy tale’ thanks to the impact of Covid-19

‘The plight of staff was one of the primary concerns of businesses and the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by the Chancellor was a huge relief,’ said Janice. ‘In the region of 90 per cent of hotel staff were furloughed.

“However, the industry’s inability to trade in the way it did prior to closure means that it is likely that the sector will lose between 15 and 20 per cent of its direct workforce through redundancies, re-deployment and natural churn. The final number will be determined by winter trading, the timing of a return to full trade and fiscal support for employees over the next six months.’

Discussing summer trade for the sector, Janice says that business after the re-opening in July had been better than many had predicted. The real ‘game changer’, she said, had been the reduction in VAT to five per cent.

‘In October, the situation began to deteriorate again as Covid-19 infection levels rapidly increased. The introduction of a Northern Ireland-wide curfew and localised restrictions in the Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) area decimated trading. The effects of these measures in DCSDC resulted in over 40 per cent of the hotel bedrooms being closed after eight days.’

Janice went on to say that in order to survive, the hotel sector was going to have to be allowed to trade sustainably within a clear and workable framework:

‘Hotels have shown their resilience and resolve since March. They have traded responsibly and they have a strong reputation,’ she went on. ‘The support that has been received to date has been welcomed but as recovery becomes more truncated, this support must continue so that the industry can survive.’