Weather results in 70% drop in Christmas week trade for hotels


HOTELS:HOTELS IN snow-affected parts of the country have lost up to 70 per cent of their Christmas week business, according to the Irish Hotels Federation – even though thousands of people trapped by weather booked hotel rooms in the past week.

The IHF says the ground-floor business of hotels – such as bars and restaurants – has “gone” this week and any uplift from cancelled flights and disrupted travel plans has been slight.

Christmas week is normally a bonanza for the hotel sector, with turnover up to three times that of a normal week. However, because of the big freeze, many establishments have lost out on the cash flow that normally sustained them through January, according to IHF president, Paul Gallagher.

“Ireland effectively shut down because of the weather and, as a result, business was devastated on three of the busiest weekends in the year,” he said.

Mr Gallagher acknowledged that some hotels, particularly those near airports, had picked up business because of the air travel turmoil caused by snow in Ireland and throughout northern Europe.

Over 2,300 travellers spent last weekend in hotels across Clare and Limerick after their flight plans were disrupted and business was also brisker than normal in north Dublin during the week.

On Tuesday, for example, one hotel in Malahide sold 24 rooms to travellers fleeing the flight chaos in Dublin airport, but many more passengers opted to stay in the airport overnight.

In the UK, bad weather conditions led to claims of profiteering by airport hotels; in Heathrow, booking website claimed some hotels were marking up the price of rooms by 300 per cent, while rooms near Gatwick were said to cost 74 per cent more this week than in a month’s time.

However, there were no reports of price-gouging in Dublin, and some hotels were offering deals for stranded passengers. The Mount Herbert Hotel in Sandymount, for example, was doing a €49 per room deal for airport refugees.

Christmas is normally a quiet time for hotels, and many actually close over the holiday. For those remaining open, occupancy rates as low as 40 per cent are not unusual.

Mr Gallagher said 2010 would go down as one of the worst years in Irish tourism: “The year was bookended by severe weather, and we had the ash cloud crisis in between.” Some 139 hotels are now under the control of Nama and 40 are in receivership. A significant number of hotels now in business would not survive long into the New Year, he predicted.