As many as a quarter of Northern Ireland’s hospitality businesses could go under with the loss of almost 16,000 jobs if fresh measures aren’t put in place to support the sector.
The sector has now outlined a ‘12 point plan’ which outlines phased reopening of bars, restaurants and other hospitality businesses, with social distancing measures, alongside continued financial support from the Government.
The study by BDO alongside Hospitality Ulster and the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation warns that up to 40% of restaurants face closure, 25% of hotels and one in seven pubs.
It says there have been around 1,500 redundancies in the hotels sector alone, since the start of the coronavirus crisis in Northern Ireland.
It also estimates that 90% of workers in the hospitality sector are under the Government’s furlough system.
But while there have been calls from some in the sector to begin reopening businesses with social distancing measures, the report says “implementing social distancing measures will have severe implications on capacity” and “therefore the reopening of hospitality businesses under any social distancing restrictions is unlikely to be commercially viable… without tailored Government support”.
As part of its 12-step plan it includes establishing a new industry-wide social distancing policy including a ‘safety’ mark and marketing strategy, continued rates relief, business suspension fund and continuing the furlough scheme.
“These are incredibly difficult times for many business sectors, but the hospitality industry, which was one of the first to close, is undoubtedly the hardest impacted and will most likely be the hardest to rebuild,” Brian Murphy, managing partner, BDO NI, said.
“However, there is a clear desire within the industry to reopen and rebuild – but that will require an ongoing partnership with Government.
“The industry will require ongoing Government support to ensure that the many thousands of jobs are preserved and that the reopening of the sector can act as a catalyst for the recovery throughout the economy.”
In a joint statement Janice Gault, NI Hotels Federation and Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster said: “The Northern Ireland Executive is expected to announce a ‘road map for recovery’ and we hope that will include a date for reopening our hospitality businesses.”
“The path towards re-opening should be underpinned with sound scientific data and the wellbeing of staff and customers to the fore. A framework around which businesses can reopen that gives the sector the ability to adapt the operating procedures, review the fiscal impact on trading and assess the viability of business going forward.
“Any decision to reopen should be based on how safe the business is, and how we can ensure it is sustainable under social distancing rules – and not based on what they sell or how large they are.”