Northern Ireland Hotels Federation CEO Janice Gault has welcomed the support offered to the hotel sector by the Economy Minister.
Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) CEO Janice Gault said: “The NIHF welcomes the announcement by the Economy Minister Diane Dodds MLA of the Large Tourism & Hospitality Support Scheme (LTHBSS) and the scheme for Bed & Breakfasts, Guest Houses and Guest Accommodation which are much needed by the accommodation sector.
“This is a real life line for the sector and shows an understanding of the difficult situation that the sector finds itself in.
“Since the start of the pandemic assistance for larger tourism and hospitality businesses with a significant fixed cost base has been limited. These businesses were not accounted for in the initial grant phase as their NAV level of in excess of £51K meant that they were not eligible.
“The Federation has repeatedly made the point that a closed hotel operation still attracts considerable cost. Hotels are burning through £2m to £2.5m per week which does not include furlough costs (£25-£30 per week per employee) or any bank repayments.
“Trading over the last year has been limited with reserves now severely depleted and businesses operating in survival mode. The industry will need additional support in the coming months and the Federation continues to engage with Government to find appropriate solutions.”
Janice Gault added: “The effects of the pandemic have lasted much longer than originally predicted and our members see these continuing well into 2021. This year will be all about re-opening, with full recovery and restoration now likely to be in the 2022-23 timeframe.
“At the moment, hotels remain closed and with the current health crisis, travel restrictions and level of community infection, reopening appears to be some way off.
“Throughout this crisis, the industry has traded responsibly adhering to government guidelines with an emphasis on protecting the health of staff and customers. While hotels are looking forward to reopening when the correct circumstances prevail, a viable trading framework needs to be in place and the threat of another lockdown off the table.
“Everyone appreciates that we are in unchartered waters but setting out a regulatory base which effectively results in businesses trading in an unstainable manner is simply not an option.”
Janice Gault said that the Federation continues to press for measures to ensure the industry can reopen in a sustainable manner adding the asks are for the current 5% VAT rate to be held until businesses recover, Full Business Rates relief for 2021-22 and that a grant is given to assist with the considerable cost of reopening.
“Hotels are still counting the cost of the short Christmas trading period and reflecting on the challenges that 2021 will bring”.