As virus restrictions continue to impact the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland, the NI Hotel Federation says that the sector is ‘running on empty’.
Figures released by specialist benchmarking firm, STR, which keeps a watching brief on the performance of the local industry, show just how dire the current situation has become. Occupancy levels in October plummeted to just 23 per cent, down a staggering 68 per cent on figures for the same period in 2019. Hotels in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry recorded occupancy levels of less than 20 per cent.
For the year to the end of October, bedroom occupancy levels were down 50 per cent and the average room rate has dropped by 7.7 per cent. Revenue achievable per available room fell from £57.55 in 2019 to just £26.63 this year.
In terms of total revenue, STR predicts a fall of £120m to £77m with occupancy levels nose-diving to 30 per cent.
NI Hotel Federation chief executive Janice Gault says that if the sector is to emerge as a viable industry from the current virus lockdown, then it needs more support:
‘The current six-week circuit breaker has cost hotels in excess of £10m in salary furlough contributions and fixed costs,’ added Janice. ‘This does not take account of rent, loans interest or mortgage payments. To date, the only support hotels have received is the Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme which is capped at £9,600.
‘Hotels are complex business operations which require forward planning to enable bookings to be made, staff engaged and orders placed with suppliers. Guests have been understanding and have coped well with the inconvenience, but the mood is changing. Complex operations have considerable running costs and require appropriate levels of support,’ she continued.
The Federation has now put forward the case to government for the accommodation sector to be supported based on room numbers and business levels.
‘There is still no clarity around re-opening, what it will look like or indeed, if additional safety measures will be required,’ added Janice. ‘As hotel bedrooms lie empty, hoteliers continue to count the growing cost of closure with no agreed government strategy on the way forward.’