HOTELS and guesthouses in Donegal have faced another exceptionally challenging year due to Covid.
Average room occupancy levels for 2021 stand at 27 per cent for the border region including Donegal year to date according to the latest industry research from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).
With the summer over, the sector is entering an uncertain nine months as booking levels fall sharply in the absence of overseas visitors, meetings and events which would normally sustain the sector during the off-peak season.
Paul Diver, Chair of the Donegal branch of the IHF is urging the Government to give a firm commitment to continue business and employment supports until international tourism recovery begins in earnest in summer 2022.
He said: “Government supports have been a vital lifeline for tourism businesses, including hotels and guesthouses in Donegal – many of these businesses would not have survived without the emergency measures put in place throughout this crisis.
“We now have a long road to recovery ahead of us, and this will require further targeted assistance for tourism and hospitality and the almost 270,000 livelihoods supported by tourism before Covid – one in ten of all Irish jobs, including 7,500 here in Donegal.”
Mr Diver notes that while the domestic tourism market performed well over the summer months with average room occupancy in the border region of 73 per cent , business has been exceptionally poor year-to-date with occupancy levels averaging 27 per cent for the first eight months due to the sector being shut until June.
The sector is still subject to a delay in the full lifting of restrictions on hospitality and indoor events until 22nd October as well as significant uncertainty around international travel, including travel advice from the US Government against travel to Ireland which is impacting on forward bookings. Hotels in the border region are also facing competition from properties in Northern Ireland for weddings.
Under the most optimistic scenario for the remainder of 2021, average occupancy is projected to reach 32 per cent nationally for the year as whole – a significant collapse in activity compared with 2019, when room occupancy was 73 per cent and is only a modest increase on the all-time historic low of 30 per cent reached in 2020.
He said: “The economic and financial impact of Covid has been devastating for our sector and wider tourism industry, directly impacting on the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people. Hotels and guesthouses nationally will have seen a combined €5.3bn drop in revenues across 2020 and 2021 as a direct result of this crisis with overall revenues dropping 68 per cent in 2020 and 55 per cent this year.”