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*Dermot Kelly. Photograph: John Mangan

Hotels and guesthouses in Clare are facing their harshest ever start to a new year due to a collapse in room occupancy figures according to the latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

In the Mid-West, booking levels for hotel rooms of just 8% are being reported for January, dropping back to a mere 6% for February. This follows already historically low occupancy levels of 29% reported for December.

Chair of the IHF Shannon branch, Mr Dermot Kelly is calling on the Government not to renege on its budget commitment to the sector, urging it to review the operation of its Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) which currently excludes hotels.

He outlined that the easing of inter-county travel led to “a marginal increase” in bookings but compared with last year’s figures represented “a dramatic fall in business levels”.

“Traditionally, the four weeks of Christmas trading are absolutely vital to hotels in terms of sustaining them during the first few months of the following year, when business levels tend to be lower. Business has been effectively wiped out this year due to Government restrictions while continued uncertainty over Covid restrictions is having a devastating effect on bookings for the start of next year,” the Ruan native stated.

Dermot added, “Yet, due to an anomaly2 in how the Government has structured the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, hotels are now being excluded despite a record fall in revenues, even where they meet the required 75% drop in turnover. We are calling on the Government to review the operation of the scheme as a matter of urgency”.

Clare County Council’s rates waiver is due to lapse on December 31st prompting the IHF to seek an six month extension. “The time-period should coincide with business interruption due to Covid. After that, payment of local authority rates should be based on reduced levels of activity due to the crisis and until the industry has recovered. Businesses cannot be expected to pay rates on historical turnover figures that do not reflect the significantly lower levels of business that hoteliers are experiencing. Pre-Covid, tourism in Clare, of which hotels are a key component, supported 12,000 jobs and generated €266m in local revenues,” the co-owner of the Shannon Springs Hotel added.

Breakdown of occupancy results for December ’20 / January ’21 / February ’21:

National room occupancy: 25% Dec (8% Jan / 6% Feb)
Dublin City and County: 25% Dec (6% Jan / 5% Feb)
Other Cities: 33% Dec (10% Jan / 6% Feb)
Border region: 18% Dec (7% Jan / 6% Feb)
Mid-West: 29% Dec (8% Jan / 6% Feb)
Midlands / Mid East: 34% Dec (11% Jan / 8% Feb)
South East: 27% Dec (13% Jan / 10% Feb)
South West: 22% Dec (8% Jan / 5% Feb)
West: 24% Dec (10% Jan / 8% Feb)

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