Hotels and guesthouses in Offaly are expressing confidence for 2014 according to the latest Irish Hotels Federation’s (IHF) quarterly barometer findings.
The barometer of IHF members carried out as the summer season starts shows that some 86% of hotel and guesthouses have expressed an optimistic view for future trading conditions in 2014, with some 72% of respondents indicating an increase in advance summer bookings compared to the same period last year (4% reported a decrease and 24% noted no change).
67% of hoteliers noted a growth in domestic tourism and a rise in advance bookings from Great Britain (54%) and the United States (45%) with 75% of hoteliers reporting an overall increase in business levels so far this year. With an outlook of increased and domestic advance bookings, 42% of hoteliers state they expect to increase staffing levels over the coming 12 months. However, a pipeline of qualified staff was raised as a concern with seven out of ten (73%) hotel and guesthouse owners expressing difficulty recruiting qualified craft/entry level staff compared with 64% at the same time last year.
Along with ensuring qualified staff are available for upcoming positions and making sure Irish tourism remains competitive in Europe, hotel and guesthouse owners expressed renewed concern regarding pressures on their cost base citing excessive Local Authority Rates being a key concern with some 81% state it is having a negative impact on their business.
Local Authority Rates are the biggest single cost that hoteliers have no control over and the IHF is calling for a 30% reduction on these rates to ensure Irish tourism’s ability to compete effectively for domestic and overseas tourists. These rates are particularly affecting hotels located in rural areas that are exposed to weak domestic consumer demand.
Other pressing concerns highlighted in the recent survey of hotel and guesthouse owners include utility costs (73%), excess capacity (43%) and consumer confidence (31%). Accessing standard/normal credit facilities from their banks over the last 12 months is still an issue for 24% of respondents.
Matt O’Connor, Chair of the Midlands Branch of the IHF states: “Despite the upturn, the hotels sector is still a number of years away from achieving sustainability and Irish tourism still faces some serious challenges. As we seek to secure growth in the tourism industry, the barrier to stifle that growth must be addressed. Hoteliers are finding it more difficult to find qualified staff for entry level positions and this will significantly hinder the prospect of achieving the target to increase tourism related jobs by in excess of 40,000 between now and 2020”.
“So far this year the domestic market is performing well and there has been a welcome increase in visitors from the United States, however, the industry is weighed down by cost concerns such as public sector charges which the Government needs to address. We can build the tourism industry from strength to strength as long as we continue to have the right environment to encourage domestic and overseas visitors and continue to invest in pro-tourism marketing measures”.