Crisis in the hotel industry mirrors the confusion in the public-facing economy

We need a grown-up conversation about who will pay the economic price of this virus

Hotels  have had just six weeks of a summer season in which to lay down profits to see them through the lean winter months.  Photograph: iStock

Hotels have had just six weeks of a summer season in which to lay down profits to see them through the lean winter months. Photograph: iStock

 

More than a quarter of a million people worked in Ireland’s hotel sector last year, according to the Irish Hotels Federation: now, it says, 100,000 of those jobs are gone. And a further 100,000 are under threat.

For all the talk of “staycations”, the industry maintains that hotels are in effect operating under close to lockdown conditions.

They have had just six weeks of a summer season in which to lay down profits to see them through the lean winter months.

And even then the effective shutdown of flights and borders with the Government’s green list meant that they have been forced to operate without any contribution from key tourism markets on which they rely.

And, if the latest industry report is to be believed, the outlook is grim. Overall hotels expect room occupancy will not even hit 25 per cent in the shoulder season – this month and next.

Ironically, for once it is the regional hotels that will fare better – especially those outside cities. Hotels in the southeast expects 41 per cent occupancy, well ahead of the 12 per cent foreseen in Dublin city and county.

But even that will not be enough, the industry group says.

The position of hotels mirrors what is happening in much of the public-facing economy – confusion, constantly changing guidelines and unreasonable expectation.

It might be more honest if the Government accepted that it has forced the sector to close functionally and committed to financially support it on that basis.

There is a grown-up conversation to be had in Ireland about the price we want to pay for the economic wreckage caused by the virus ...and whom should pay that bill.

And all the while the suspicion lingers: if only we could have the sort of proactive aggressive targeted test-and-trace system we keep hearing about in countries that truly are trying to beat the coronavirus, then some of the more damaging restrictions under which we are expecting businesses to operate would not be necessary.

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