Andrew Webb

Responding to the publication by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) of the latest Hotel Occupancy Survey which covers February 2020, Andrew Webb, Chief Economist at Grant Thornton said:

“The Northern Ireland hotel occupancy figures for February present a stark picture of how COVID-19 was already harming the tourism sector weeks before the UK’s lockdown officially began in late March.

“As travellers from across the world curtailed their plans, rooms sold in February are reported as being 14% lower than the same month last year. This scale of decline, weeks before enforced closures and before the collapse of Flybe, indicates how our hoteliers were in the grip of a potentially devastating downturn long before any government support became available.

“Obviously the months ahead will show zero occupancy and the various government supports are targeted at maintaining businesses and employees through this time. The challenge will be to ensure that the various measures available are deployed effectively and rapidly to assist not just in the short-term, but also during what could be a long climb back to previous occupancy rates.”