Hoteliers fret over slow pace of summer bookings

Nine million bed nights were lost last year, Irish Hotel Federation survey shows

Irish hotels lost nine million bed nights last year compared with pre-Covid business, the Irish Hotels Federation conference heard, only a million fewer than in 2020 when the pandemic first hit.

And the first couple of months of 2022 have brought only limited relief, according to results of a survey of hotel and guest house owners. Average hotel room occupancy in January and February was just 38 per cent, the survey found, compared with 63 per cent in 2019 before the pandemic struck.

Forward bookings for the key summer months are also worrying the industry. At present, projected occupancy stands at just 39 per cent compared with 88 per cent at the same point in 2019.

The nationwide survey shows that average annual turnover almost halved in 2021 compared with 2019. On average nationally, hotels and guest houses were just one-third full, compared with 73 per cent before the crisis.


Dublin fared worse, with just a quarter of rooms occupied on average.


The sector, which supported an estimated 270,000 jobs pre-pandemic – 70 per cent of which were outside Dublin – may be buoyed by Government demand for rooms to house refugees from the war in Ukraine, the conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel, Co Cavan, heard.

However, hoteliers fear that a third year in which hotel rooms are not freely available to visitors could harm the industry generally, further delaying recovery in visitor numbers.

Victoria Tollman, executive vice-president of Red Carnation Hotels, which spent some €67 million acquiring and restoring Ashford Castle in Co Mayo, told the conference that potential staff were now in a position to determine their terms and conditions.

In her group’s experience, she said, a potential employee would say what they wanted in terms of job security and, for example, how many shifts they were prepared to do in a week.

The result was that sometimes three people fulfilled a single role, she said, and this was something to which business had to simply adapt and accustom themselves.

Ensuring staff expectations were met and that they were happy in their job was crucial, she said.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist