Northern Ireland news

Four week hospitality restrictions have cost hotels £7m - trade body

The Merchant Hotel in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann.
Ryan McAleer

THE four-week closure of hospitality premises in the north will cost hotels £7 million, according to an industry body.

The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) yesterday estimated that businesses have lost out on the sale of around 280,000 bedrooms and over 200 weddings as a result of the restrictions on hospitality.

The restrictions aimed at curbing Covid-19 have been in place since October 16 and are due to be lifted on November 13.

The Executive had been expected to announce on Thursday whether the reopening would go-ahead or be postponed. An announcement is now expected on Monday instead.

First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed that the north’s R-rate had dropped to 0.7.

It’s understood that health officials have proposed extending the hospitality lockdown for another two weeks.

Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon has backed that approach, stating that it would families to be together at Christmas.

The federation’s chief executive, Janice Gault, said hotels had spent over £5m on making premises safe and training staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

She said hotels still have no clear idea on when they can reopen.

“In order to trade viably there needs to be a sustainable framework agreed for hotels and the wider industry,” she said.

While she welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme, the chief executive said hotels still face staff costs of around £25 to £30 per person per week, totalling around £1m.

“After four weeks of no trading, hotel businesses are covering fixed costs and furlough contributions. The bill for the current four-week closure is £7m. Adding to the pain is the loss of the sale of 280,000 bedrooms, over 200 weddings and the cancellation of Halloween festivities.

“The outbursts and vilification of the sector over the last week has been damaging,” she continued, “As an industry that has operated responsibly and invested in measures to trade during the Covid-19 pandemic, we greatly value our reputation.

“It has heightened anxiety and further eroded consumer confidence. However, the greatest damage is the uncertainty which prevails.

“After three long weeks of closure, we are no closer to returning to trading than we were in October.”

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