Christmas trade ‘worst in living memory’ for hospitality

Christmas trade ‘worst in living memory’ for hospitality

The eight weeks up to December 27 were the “worst period in the entire pandemic” for Northern Ireland’s hospitality sector, with half of businesses seeing trade down by more than 50%.

Hospitality Ulster chief  executive Colin Neill said the findings of its latest Trading Performance Survey represented “the worst performance for the hospitality sector in living memory”.

He added: “The trading position has continued to deteriorate and the last seven to eight weeks has possibly been the worst period in the entire pandemic. This should have been the time of year that trade is swift, but it has almost ground to a halt due to the restriction and fear of the spread of the Omicron variant.

“Time is of the essence as further debt is building in the early months of the new year. In normal circumstances a good Christmas period would have taken care of the vast majority of the bills, however this was not the case last year, and certainly not the case this year.

“It is evident that financial support and a dedicated recovery strategy is now vital as we are in a period of market failure, facing the potential collapse of many businesses.”

Key findings included:

  • Almost all members were negatively affected by the government messaging on limiting contacts as a consequence of the emergence of the Omicron strain of the virus.
  • At least 1 in 2 members have seen sales fall by more than 50% in the week commencing 27th December 2021.
  • Around 1 in 5 members report beverage and food sales down by more than 70% in the week commencing 27th December 2021 compared to the same week in 2019.
  • 44% of hotels reported sales were down by over 70% for that week, reflecting a significant down turn also in food and beverage sales.

The organisation also expressed disappointed that the grant support, due to the sector for restricted opening and closure – over what should have been a busy period – had been delayed.

Mr Neill, above, added: “Whilst it is disappointing that the latest financial support package has been delayed, we are in regular contact with government officials and are hopeful that the much needed financial assistance will be distributed to business owners across the hospitality sector in the next couple of weeks.

“We will meet with the Economy Minister to highlight the need to include hotels in the latest round of financial support, as many are food and beverage led, and are suffering the same impact of market failure. We are also working with Government officials to secure additional financial support for nightclubs that are now legally required to close.”

“As soon as the infection rate peaks, the Executive must make the decision to remove the punitive restrictions and support the industry as it rebuilds over the coming months and years.”