Hotels may end refugee contracts with State ahead of tourist season

Tourist businesses around the country are housing some 14,000 refugees at present

Hotels and guest houses may not renew State deals to accommodate refugees as they gear up for the tourist season, industry figures say.

The Government rents hotel and guest house rooms around the Republic to accommodate around 14,000 refugees from Ukraine and other countries.

Industry bodies say many of the businesses involved are unlikely to renew these contracts with the Department of Children as they end in March and April, when the tourist season traditionally begins.

The news comes as sources acknowledge that the Government knows it cannot use the hospitality industry to aid State humanitarian commitments indefinitely.


Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Council (ITIC), confirmed that many agreements were due to expire around March.

“A lot of hotels will decide not to renew their contracts,” he said. Mr O’Mara Walsh maintained that these premises were not suitable for housing refugees over long periods.

“It really is incumbent on the Government to come up with a comprehensive plan for this very quickly,” he added.

His organisation predicts in its 2023 outlook that March and April will be a crunch point for the State’s reliance on tourist businesses to accommodate refugees.

Tim Fenn, chief executive of the Irish Hotels’ Federation, agreed that tourist accommodation was not designed for living in the longer term.

However, he stressed that it was up to individual enterprises to decide on renewing agreements to house refugees.

Mr O’Mara Walsh argued that if tourist businesses were accommodating the same number of refugees from March onward, this could be a problem for the industry and the communities relying on it.

He explained that rates paid by the Government to hotels for this would not be viable in the longer term.

Tourists spend around €2.50 for every €1 they spend on accommodation, much of it in the areas where they stay, creating a spin-off for local businesses.

Mr O’Mara Walsh said that if the Government wanted hospitality organisations to house refugees in the longer term, it would have to offer businesses supports similar to those paid during the pandemic.

One source close to the situation responded that hotels had done well from the refugee contracts, as they also guaranteed income during the off season. However, he agreed that wider communities lost out on more general tourist spending.

The Government is working on alternatives, including modular housing, councils’ vacant home schemes, pledged accommodation and refurbished properties, that could take most of the 14,000 people hit in a “best-case scenario”.

The source pointed out that these may not work for all refugees, as many have jobs and children in school close to their current accommodation.

“The Government has seen this coming,” he said, adding that it was working on different solutions.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas