13 December 2021


Hospitality Ulster has said that the latest industry information shows a catastrophic impact to the hospitality sector this Christmas due to a massive number of cancellations and a drop in trade.


The latest worrying results, gathered over a three week period, show huge losses across all parts of the sector, including food and beverage sales and accommodation. The results come on the day that the Covid passport scheme is imposed on the hospitality sector.


Industry feedback as part of the survey shows that the majority of business owners feel like they have been made a scapegoat and that scaremongering by Executive Ministers and senior medical representatives has created a situation whereby customers have been scared away from going out this Christmas.  


Survey findings which have been analysed by an independent economist show decline in sales across the hospitality sector over the last three-week period. 


Since the announcement of mandatory ‘Proof of Covid Status’ the last 3 weeks have witnessed extremely challenging trading conditions, with the majority of members experiencing falling sales.


Beverage and food sales have been deteriorating weekly with almost all respondents (93% to 95%) saying that sales were down during the week commencing 29th November 2021.


The share of respondents that have experienced a contraction of more than 50% in sales has been increasing over this short period of time.


In the week beginning 29th November 2021:


  • 1 in 5 members (21%) said that beverage sales had contracted by more than 50%
  • 1 in 4 (26%) stated that food sales were down more than 50%
  • Half of those with accommodation (54%) said that accommodation sales had contracted by more than 50% compared to the same week in 2019.


The survey shows that there have been immediate cancellations of bookings running up to the Christmas period with reference to corporate bookings.  This has escalated since. 


There is the continued feeling amongst respondents that the hospitality sector is the “fall guy”/”scape goat” in spite of all of the investment it has made in measures to make sure that the environment is safe. Some respondents “don’t believe the hospitality sector can recover and will be fundamentally changed.”


There is mention of “job cuts” and “reduced hours” and the “challenge of having to pay staff more because they have been hard to come by, then all of a sudden find business dropping away.”


Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said:


“Today the Assembly is going to be talking about Covid regulations for hours, all day in fact, and we would appeal to our elected representatives who will be in the chamber to think about the hundreds of businesses and thousands of staff in the hospitality sector who are facing business failure and the loss of their jobs if things don’t improve.”


“Business owners are seeing sustained contraction of sales, forced by drop in footfall and immediate cancellations and feel like they have been left high and dry after being heaped with the responsibility of the Covid Passport scheme. Even though penalties for the scheme kicks in from today, we are still yet to see the economic impact assessment which has led to this decision. Where is the package of financial support? Is the hospitality sector being forced to carry the can for this Executive decision?”


“After two weeks of developing operational procedures and training of staff for ‘Proof of Covid Status’, on the weekend before penalties begin, the legislation gets changed from ‘check as soon as reasonably possible’ to ‘check at point of entry’ - a change that will be unworkable for many businesses that operate a counter service business model, or venues that have several entrances. Most businesses do not have door staff and cannot afford to employ them even if they could find them. Where is the collaborative working? Where is the common sense approach?”


“The Executive and the wider Assembly need to understand that repeated additional Covid measures are costing businesses in the hospitality sector and we are at breaking point. This coupled with a highly confusing message from government is destroying our industry.”


“Hospitality businesses are the sacrificial lamb. If our staff are to go without wages, the Executive should at least be honest and tell us that!”