Hoteliers here are reporting occupancy rates of between 23 and 26% for the summer months, according to figures from the Irish Hotels’ Federation.
This is based on confirmed bookings and compares to an average 90% occupancy over the summer months last year.
The IHF said that occupancy for September, traditionally a popular time for US visitors, currently stands at 22%.
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, the IHF president, said the substantial drop in occupancy levels highlighted the unprecedented challenges facing the sector and the requirement for immediate interventions to support tourism businesses.
She said the move by the UK government to cut the VAT rate there from 20% to 5% was a clear sign of their commitment to support the recovery of their tourism and hospitality industry.
“Given how closely our economies are intertwined a similar cut here is necessary. The UK is not only our biggest market for overseas tourists, it is also our biggest competitor,” she said.
Almost 90% of hotels across the country are expected to be open again by the middle of the month.
Ms Fitzgerald Kane said that hotel and guesthouse owners have been heartened by the strong support from people who are taking a “staycation” this year.
However, she said this continues to be a critical time for the tourism industry and the almost 270,000 livelihoods it supports.
The IHF is calling on the Government to implement the following measures as a matter of urgency – the continuation of the wage subsidy scheme and inclusion of seasonal employees, a reduction in the tourism VAT rate to 5% until December 2021, new liquidity measures and the extension of the three month waiver of Local Authority rates and charges.
The group also said that the size of gatherings should be linked to venue capacity as opposed to an arbitrary cap on numbers. Greater clarity is now urgently required for gatherings beyond July, it added.
“Time and again, tourism has proven itself as a hugely successful engine for economic growth, particularly in regional Ireland. In the aftermath of the last recession, tourism created 90,000 new jobs. Last year alone it generated over €9 billion in revenue,” the IHF president said.
“We are committed to working closely with the Government and with Minister Catherine Martin to safeguard tourism, Ireland’s largest indigenous employer, so that it can play a key role again and be a significant lever in the country’s economic recovery,” she added.
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