21 December 2021

…Executive needs to make decisions to halt emergency and bring forward compensation package now, says Hospitality Ulster


The hospitality sector in Northern Ireland is expected to rack up massive losses of up to £300 million in trade over the Christmas period due to the impact of the latest Covid variant and mixed messaging from government which has driven away custom during what is normally the busiest time of the year.


The findings from the latest Hospitality Ulster survey shows that the trading position of its members is deteriorating sharply with particularly dire findings for the week commencing 13th December 2021. It found:


  • Serious financial implications for the industry with an expected £250million to £300million in losses over the Christmas period
  • Almost all members have been negatively affected by COVID measures and increasing uncertainty around what, if any, new measures/restrictions might be introduced with the arrival of the Omicron strain of the virus
  • At least 1 in 3 members have seen sales fall by more than 50% in the last week alone
  • The extent of the impact is widening and deepening. For example, twice as many members are reporting a drop in food sales of more than 50% in the week commencing 13th December 2021; compared to 39% w/c 15th November 2021; and 18% when the COVID pass was first introduced.  


Fears are now growing about what additional measures the Executive will heap on the sector when it meets tomorrow. Hospitality Ulster has said that the new figures and findings are absolutely shocking and that the Executive now needs to bring forward compensation.


Some in the sector have been forced to take the decision to close their premises over the Christmas period due to staffing issues, cancellations and overall down turn in trade. Other findings in the latest Hospitality Ulster survey in the week beginning 13th December 2021 show:


  • 1 in 3 members (35%) said that beverage sales had contracted by more than 50%;
  • 2 in 5 (39%) stated that food sales were down more than 50%;
  • and almost half of those with accommodation (46%) said that accommodation sales had contracted by more than 50% compared to the same week in 2019.


Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said:


“These latest figures are absolutely horrific and show that the entire sector is in a state of emergency. The feedback we are getting is horrendous, some have told us they are preparing for liquidation. The situation we are in will obliterate livelihoods.”


“The Executive needs to let us know right way what the plan is. The mixed messages are having a catastrophic impact. We are open but not trading and our politicians need to decide now how to arrest this decline into financial ruin. We are once again fighting for survival and trying our best to keep staff employed. Our sector is running out of time. We have hospitality business owners crying their hearts out during media interviews - what sort of situation is that to be in? This is the fourth largest private sector employer we are talking about here. These people need help, they need compensated.”


“Based on feedback from our latest survey, our industry will expect to make losses of between £250 million to £300 million. We have literally been sacrificed due to the lack of action by the Executive. There now needs to be compensation for this situation created outside of our control.”


“The only other option, if no support is forthcoming, is that the Executive will allow for the collapse of the hospitality industry.”


Comments from hospitality business owners in latest Hospitality Ulster members survey:


Hospitality Business Owner Comment 1

“We are preparing ourselves for liquidation if we don’t get help asap. We can’t possibly absorb any more debt than we already have.”


Hospitality Business Owner Comment 2

“Totally off the scale this week. A real lack of footfall, considerably down. All Xmas parties that we had bookings for were either completely no shows or 50-60% of the booked party didn’t turn up. Extra staff required every day to enforce passport checks. All customers complaining about being checked totally unfair on our industry. Yet again we face a bleak future in the months ahead.”


Hospitality Business Owner Comment 3

“Cancellations are only reason phone ringing  - how do we pay our staff - the few loyal staff we have left? No support. No guidance. No hope.”