The organisation has expressed its disappointment that the grant support due to the sector for restricted opening and closure over what should have been a busy period has been delayed and hospitality leaders there are calling on the NI Executive to provide the crucial grant assistance.
Almost all members of NI’s hospitality trade have been negatively affected by the UK government’s messaging on limiting contacts coupled with the additional restrictions introduced on the 22nd of December and brought into force on the 26th of December as a consequence of the emergence of the Omicron strain of the virus.
In the survey Hospitality Ulster found that at least one in two of its members saw sales fall by more than 50% in the week commencing the 27th of December 2021.
The survey points out that the extent of the impact continues to widen and deepen.
For example, more than twice as many members reported a drop in beverage and food sales of more than 50% in the week commencing the 27th of December 2021 compared to the 15th of November 2021 which is when the Covid Pass was first introduced to Northern Ireland.
The deterioration over the New Year, when the restrictions came into place, is particularly striking in terms of the significant increase in the share of its members reporting sales down by over 70% – around one in five in the week commencing the 27th of December compared to the same week in 2019.
This is even higher for accommodation sales with 44% of hotels reporting that sales were down by over 70% for that week, reflecting a significant downturn in food and beverage sales too.
Hospitality Ulster has stated that financial support and a dedicated recovery strategy is now vital as the industry is in a period of market failure and businesses face potential collapse across Northern Ireland.
“The trading position has continued to deteriorate and the last seven to eight weeks has possibly been the worst period in the entire pandemic,” said Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill, “This should have been the time of year that trade is swift, but it has almost ground to a halt due to the restriction and fear of the spread of the Omicron variant.”
“Time is of the essence as further debt is building in the early months of the new year. In normal circumstances a good Christmas period would have taken care of the vast majority of the bills, however this was not the case last year and certainly not the case this year,” he continued, “It’s evident that financial support and a dedicated recovery strategy is now vital as we’re in a period of market failure, facing the potential collapse of many businesses.
“Whilst it’s disappointing that the latest financial support package has been delayed, we’re in regular contact with government officials.
“We’ll meet with the Economy Minister to highlight the need to include hotels in the latest round of financial support as many are food- and beverage-led and are suffering the same impact of market failure. We’re also working with Government officials to secure additional financial support for nightclubs that are now legally required to close.
“As soon as the infection rate peaks, the Executive must make the decision to remove the punitive restrictions and support the industry as it rebuilds over the coming months and years.”