Vital Christmas hospitality trade ‘wiped out’ as cancellations surge to 90pc

Christmas booking cancellations are now running at 90pc for some hospitality operators.

housands of festive revellers have been spooked by the surge in Covid-19 cases and fears over the new Omicron variant.

Hotel and restaurant industry executives warned their sector was facing the threat of multi-million euro losses due to the surge in booking cancellations and the devastation of critical Christmas hospitality earnings.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged that hotel, restaurant and cafe owners had been hit and vowed that the Government would assess what could be done to support the sector.

Hotel industry executives said their traditional Christmas bookings had been hit by more than 50pc with the loss of office Christmas parties, large festive gatherings and school excursions.

One hotel owner, Pat Tangney, said the hospitality sector had been left devastated as a flood of cancellations over the past fortnight wrecked hopes of a strong festive trading season and a recovery from the two-year pandemic.

Mr Tangney – who operates the Firgrove and Clongibbon House hotels in Mitchelstown – said he had dealt with more than 500 cancellations over recent days.

“Not only that but we have cancellations extending right into the new year – we have had music evenings, socials and the like all cancelled.

“We tried to offer smaller groups an incentive to switch dates or rebook but it was no good. They cancelled and that was that. We had events where we had bands booked, extra staff organised and even security personnel arranged.

“Those events for St Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Eve are all gone – now we are worried about even our core food and drink trade.”

Irish Hotels Federation official Fergal Harte said the office Christmas party trade had been “totally wiped out” over the past fortnight.

“It was a major blow because they were very important bookings for every hotelier,” he said.

“We are now basically reliant on smaller groups and those bookings holding up.”

Mr Harte – who runs the Kingsley Hotel in Cork – said the impact of the cancellations could not be overstated given how both hotels and restaurants depend on a strong Christmas season to get them through the lean New Year period.

Restaurant owner Dave Ryan, who operates Hanna’s in Fermoy, confirmed he had had to cancel all their evening Christmas operations because of the number of large bookings being withdrawn.

“We could have tried to continue with just small groups but it was just too risky given all that is happening,” he said.

“Our takeaway business was normally about 17pc of our trade. But that has now gone up to 38pc which I think says a lot about what is going on in the country.”

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said it was a worrying time for everyone within the industry.

The Taoiseach acknowledged the impact of booking cancellations on the hospitality sector. “We are conscious that the decisions last week have resulted in a lot of cancellations in hospitality. That has had an impact,” he said.

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