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Cork Independent

Business & Professional

Hotels spent nearly €20m on promotion and renovations in 2018

Wednesday, 20th February, 2019 5:02pm

Cork hotels spent over €7.5m promoting the region in 2018 - an increase of €2.5m from 2017 and nearly €12m on renovations and improvements to hotels themselves last year.

A recent survey of Cork hoteliers, conducted by the Cork branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), has shown that more than 350 jobs are currently available in the hotel sector in Cork, of which 170 are full time. There are 1,500 additional bedrooms in planning or in build in Cork city.

Neil Grant, chair of the IHF Cork branch, said its members are making huge efforts to now grow their businesses after years of recession. “Our hotel members worked extremely hard to overcome the challenges of the last recession and it is fantastic to now see our collective efforts as a sector helping to attract additional tourism business to Cork. The substantially increased marketing spend hoteliers are making to promote Cork as a tourism destination is just one aspect of this,” he said.

While more than 80 per cent of hotels invested in capital expenditure last year, individual hotel upgrades ranged from €50k to €2.5 million.

According to hoteliers, people visit Cork for a wide range of reasons including the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East; the food culture, scenery, attractions like Blarney Castle and Fota, hidden gems, the people, our vibrant city and the fact that Cork is a gateway to the south. Corporate business travel was a cited factor too.

Growth opportunities identified include increased frequency and capacity at Cork Airport, promotion of Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way routes, expansion of hotel bedrooms, the corporate market, free entertainment in hotels and the region, and improved facilities.

94 per cent of hoteliers surveyed said they find recruitment a challenge and are struggling to find suitable staff.

Mr Grant said the IHF is taking a number of measures to address this, including a campaign to encourage students to consider a career in the hospitality sector after school, a local partnership with CIT to promote the industry and an apprentice initiative with the college to upskill local hotel staff, and they are also attending international recruitment fairs on behalf of members.

“There are huge opportunities available in the hotel industry in Ireland, but currently we have to recruit outside of the country. The IHF recently launched a dedicated website, supported by Fáilte Ireland, called Get a Life in Tourism, which offers comprehensive information on the many training courses and careers available in tourism and hospitality. A career in the sector offers enormous potential for professional development and advancement,” he said.

More than 1,500 new bedrooms are due to come on the market in Cork city alone in the coming years, providing a 50 per cent increase on the number of existing rooms currently available.

Planning permission has already been granted for these projects and some are currently being built. In addition, the recently sold Moore’s Hotel and Ancient Order of Hiberians Hall sites are likely to be developed for mixed hotel/office use.

Mr Grant said: “Whilst this is great news for the city, as it could attract more than 3,000 extra people a day, our survey found that hotels (city and county) are currently only averaging a 74 per cent occupancy rate. Therefore, our members are concerned that the increase in bedroom provision could over-saturate the market, if the event centre does not get underway soon.

“Many hoteliers applied to extend their bedroom capacity or build new hotels on the basis that the events centre would attract a significant increase in business and leisure tourism to Cork. We need absolute confirmation on its delivery as soon as possible.”

Looking ahead to 2019, almost 80 per cent of hotels surveyed said they believe Brexit will affect their business while almost 100 per cent said they are concerned about the increase in VAT, staff shortages, the recruitment legislation, and the additional capacity of rooms coming onto the market, without the confirmation of the events centre. Other concerns include the increasing cost of insurance, rising staff costs and the expected economic downturn in Europe.

“In addition to this, Ireland is also 22 per cent more expensive for visitors from the UK on exchange rate change alone since 2012 and this could change again depending on the outcome of Brexit. This would have a significant effect on UK visitor numbers, our second biggest market,” Mr Grant said.

“Our members have worked hard to survive and grow their businesses over the past few years and there is huge potential for continued growth in the sector here in Cork. Only recently Pure Cork took a stand at the holiday world show in Dublin and many of our members stood side by side with visitor attractions promoting the region, demonstrating that there is great teamwork.

“However, we are now also facing new challenges as an industry that we need to overcome. We need to continue to work together - with the support of Government at local and national level - on innovation, international marketing and promotion, and on finding solutions to issues that affect our industry.”

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