Restrictions must end says Hospitality Ulster

The latest Hospitality Ulster survey has shown that trade within the sector continues to free-fall as restrictions that remain in place continue to destroy the industry across the board.

The survey highlights that the week commencing 3rd January 2022 was the worst week of trading for hospitality in the past eight weeks of tracking, overtaking the previous week’s statistics which pointed to the worst in living memory.

Hospitality Ulster has been surveying members over the course of the last eight weeks to get a picture of how businesses have been performing.

The recent Hospitality Ulster member survey showed

  • 98% of Hospitality Ulster members have experienced a reduction in beverage sales during the week commencing 3rd January versus same trading week in 2019.
  • The start of the 2022 trading year has been abysmal.  At least 1 in 2 members have seen sales fall by more than 50% in the week commencing 3rd January 2022 compared to the same week in 2019.  This is as high as 70% for accommodation providers.
  • The extent of the impact continues to widen and deepen. For example, around two and a half times as many members are reporting a drop in beverage and food sales of more than 50% in the week commencing 3rd January 2022 (50%) compared to the 15th November 2021 (20%), 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 members reporting sales down by over 70%. Around 1 in 5 members making beverage and food sales and 44% of hotels (also making food and beverage sales) reported that sales were down by over 70% for that week of the 27th December 2021.
  • This has deteriorated further during the week commencing 3rd January 2022 where for at least 1 in 4 members beverage and food sales have fallen by over 70% and in accommodation this is as high as 49% for hotels.

Hospitality Ulster is now calling on the Executive to lift the punitive restrictions which are having a cataclysmic impact on hospitality outlets and business owners, and for the reopening of nightclubs as the worst impacts of the covid variant isn’t as severe as modelling first suggested.

The organisation is also urging the Executive to engage with them on the formation of a dedicated hospitality strategy to support the industry as it looks to its recovery period.

Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill said: “The latest survey results paint a dire picture of where our industry currently is after almost two years of restrictions and closures. It is no exaggeration to say the hospitality sector has never been in a worse position with over 96% of trade down from 2019 in food, drink and accommodation sales.”

“The financial burden of the restrictions are becoming apparent as a growing concern with members responding that the cost of unused stock due to poor footfall and restriction, looming tax bills and the cost of extra staff to monitor Covid-19 passports and provide table service is having serious strain on business viability. In fact, some businesses have made the difficult decision to close until restrictions can be lifted, having a detrimental impact on trade and staff.”

“Almost a month on, and without financial assistance, severe damage has been done to the hospitality sector. The Executive must now take swift action to remove these punishing restrictions and let our sector begin to build back trade and custom in the uphill battle to regain our place as a driver of the Northern Ireland economy.”

“Moving past the removal of restrictions, a dedicated hospitality strategy must be developed and implemented to support the sector rebuild and regrow. In March 2021, we delivered our post-pandemic recovery plan. We urge the Executive to use our strategy as a template and work with us to create a thorough action plan that will ensure businesses can get back on the right footing and address the debt and devastation that has been caused.

“We cannot go back to dither and delay. The Executive must be take note of the impact and lift the restrictions when it meets on Thursday. The hospitality sector cannot wait any longer.”

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