In summer of the staycation, most Irish hotel rooms remain empty

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    Almost six out of ten hotel rooms in Ireland lay empty in July, traditionally one of the busiest months of the year for tourism and hospitality.

    hat’s according to a members’ survey by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), which reports average occupancy of 42pc in July – down from 90pc for the same month last year.

    It is the largest ever year-on-year drop for Irish hotels in summer, it says.

    “Even in a best-case scenario we are effectively looking at occupancy levels of less than 30pc for the year as a whole,” said IHF President Elaina Fitzgerald Kane. “This is nothing short of disastrous for our sector.”

    Bookings for September, when schools traditionally reopen and domestic travel drops off, show a further fall in occupancy to 24pc nationally.

    The news comes with just a month of peak summer season remaining, and follows the CSO’s announcement earlier this week that the number of overseas visitors to Ireland has fallen 97pc year on year.

    Occupancy has been particularly low in Dublin, where both city and county hotels report an average of just 17pc of rooms sold in July – leaving more than eight out of ten bedrooms empty.

    As well as overseas tourists, Dublin is also missing its usual meetings, events, sports and festival calendar, which typically attracts millions of visitors and serves as a launchpad for tourism all over the island in a normal year.

    The Government’s July Stimulus included several measures designed to help tourism, including the inclusion of seasonal staff in the Employment Wage Support Scheme, and a new ‘Stay and Spend’ initiative that will see taxpayers able to claim back up to €125 on €625 spent on certain tourism and hospitality services over winter.

    However, Fitzgerald Kane says the package “just doesn’t go far enough” – leaving the 13.5pc hospitality VAT rate untouched, and failing to deliver enough support around competitiveness and liquidity, for example.

    She also expressed disappointment with the ‘Stay and Spend’ tax credit.

    “While new and well-intentioned, the scheme is not inclusive of all guests and tourism businesses and is very convoluted and ignores the harsh reality of the challenges facing tourism.”

    The IHF survey comes as Ireland heads into its final month of summer, with the Government encouraging staycations over overseas holidays, and Fáilte Ireland launching a new look discoverireland.ie website as its research shows 60pc of Irish people planning a domestic break.

    “There’s a big focus on destinations and interests such as walking, nature and water sports, as our research shows that’s what people look for first when planning,” said Claire Cadogan, its Head of Digital Marketing.

    The research also shows that safety remains a significant concern for holidaymakers, despite the rollout of Fáilte Ireland’s safety guidelines, and the launch of a Covid-19 Safety Charter, several weeks ago.

    The Charter is designed to reassure customers and, in order to display it, businesses must to adhere to its safety, sanitisation and social distancing guidelines, and employees must undertake a training programme.

    As of July 28, 31pc (or 816) of registered accommodation businesses in Ireland had signed up for the Charter, Fáilte Ireland said.

    Of 1,664 businesses that had applied overall by that date, 699 or 58pc had completed the criteria.

    92 were restaurants, 183 tourist attractions and 225 activity businesses.

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