Further lockdown measures could mean ‘lights out’ for hotels
Janice Gault, chief executive, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation.
The latest lockdown measures announced by the Northern Ireland Executive could mean ‘lights out’ for the hotel sector warns Northern Ireland Hotels Federation.
“The latest restrictions are not a surprise with a rising R number, increased numbers in hospitals and a health service at breaking point,” said Janice Gault, chief executive.
“The health of our communities is a priority but without appropriate support for hotels, which have been and continue to be adversely impacted by the move, it could mean ‘lights out’. They just won’t be able to open again.
“To date hotels in Northern Ireland have invested over £5m to ensure their operations comply with Covid-19 health and safety measures. Over the summer hotels traded successfully investing in measures to ensure Covid-19 compliance. Infection levels remained under control with the industry operating in a limited but viable manner.
“Having been closed for the last five weeks, hotels have not contributed to the current health crisis but have simply been sacrificed and demonised throughout. The industry has also remained steadfast in its commitment to staff and the local economy. Hotels have been closed for the last five weeks, or seven in the case of businesses in the Derry City and Strabane District council area, and unable to trade.
“The cost of the current circuit breaker is in the region of £12m. A further three-week closure may see this loss rise to as much as £20m. The sacrifice made by the hotel sector appears to have had no impact on the trajectory of the pandemic and the consequences of a further closure with no trading could be catastrophic.
“Costs continue to mount up with hotels covering fixed costs and supporting furloughed staff. Furlough has been a blessing but comes at a price costing businesses £25-£30 for each staff member every week. Businesses are having to meet this cost whilst getting limited financial assistance. Protecting people is imperative, but without support for businesses in any meaningful way, it is futile.
“In addition to the incurred costs that come with trying to remain in business, hotels will lose around £100m in sales. Many hotels use the busy Christmas period to build up reserves to trade through the quieter months of January and February, something which simply won’t happen this year. Christmas has been severely curtailed and with businesses having twenty-five weeks of closure imposed on them, many are looking at an uncertain future.
“Hotels have received minimal support, a maximum of £1,600 for each week of closure. It is understood this will be available for the extended period and that more support is underway. However, hotels need clarity on support measures in order to be able to make informed decisions around whether or not they can remain in business. With over 70,000 people employed in the tourism sector, ensuring that there is a sector to return to when the R number reduces, is critically important.”