Hotel owners in Northern Ireland are urgently calling for more support as the festive season approaches. They are requesting more assistance from the government as well as hoping that the public will support their businesses by booking with them as a critical period approaches.
The Hotel Industry Has Been Particularly Hard Hit
As we know the hotel industry has been particularly hard hit during the lockdowns when Covid-19 was at its height. So the latest figures which show that hotel occupancy rates dropped to 65.2% last month is very worrying for many hotels.
Speaking about these issues to Planet Radio, Northern Ireland Hotel Federation CEO Janice Gault said:
“In previous years September bookings would have been augmented by international tour business, as well as conference and meeting activity,” she said.
“However, this business has not returned in any significant manner.
“If you consider Northern Ireland’s pre-pandemic figures, in September 2019, hotel occupancy was 76.9%, while in 2018 it was 79.3%, both significantly higher than the 2021 level of 65.2%. “
Ms Gault added that the results highlighted the importance of international travel, conferences, and meetings to the hotel industry.
“The obstacles in travelling into Northern Ireland from international destinations along with two differing positions on the island of Ireland have proved to be a real turnoff for visitors,” she added.
“Northern Ireland has been removed from tour itineraries for 2021 and there are concerns that this position could continue in the 2022 season.”
Facing An Uncertain Winter
Looking ahead, Ms Gault said they were facing an “uncertain” winter ahead.
She added: “Forecasting is always a difficult task. The 2021 performance is certainly better than that of 2020, with a year-to-date occupancy of 45.7%. However, if you look at previous years, trading viewed through the lens of occupancy would have been sitting at over 70%. Currently, across all accommodation types, businesses are reporting strong weekend bookings, with a more challenging weeknight position. The wedding market, while quieter than over the summer months, has held up well and is set to be particularly strong over Christmas.
“There is uncertainty as we approach the winter trading period. The likelihood is that 2021 trading will taper out over the coming months resulting in an average occupancy level of 45%.
“A better year than many thought but one that indicates the sector will still need significant assistance to survive.
“Promotional campaigns in the domestic and GB market, along with the proposed ‘Stay at Home’ voucher scheme, are important initiatives in a winter when all support will be greatly welcomed. People are keen to take a break and the benefit of a dedicated accommodation voucher should not be underestimated. There is an uncertain winter ahead and buoying up consumer sentiment will greatly assist tourism.”
Let us hope the hotel industry has a busy winter and they face 2022 in better shape than in the last couple of years.