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NI hospitality chief warns of losses up to £300m over Christmas


Colin Neill.

Colin Neill.

Colin Neill.

Hospitality Ulster’s Chief Executive Colin Neill has said “mixed messaging” from the government on Covid will see his sector lose up to £300m this Christmas.

In a statement, Mr Neill said the situation will “obliterate livelihoods” and has called on the Executive to make decisions and bring forward an urgent compensation package.

Ministers are set to have a formal meeting on Wednesday to discuss any possible new restrictions.

According to the latest survey from Hospitality Ulster, he said the trading position of members was “deteriorating sharply”.

On the week beginning December 13, the survey found that members expected to lose around £250-300m over the Christmas period.

In addition, “almost all members” felt they had been negatively affected by Covid measures and increasing uncertainty about what new restrictions could be introduced to tackle Omicron.

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At least one in three members said sales had dropped by more than 50% in the previous week.

Twice as many members said food sales had dropped of more than 50% in the week beginning December 13, compared to 39% a month earlier and 18% when the Covid pass was first introduced.

Some in the sector have also taken the decision to close their premises over Christmas due to staffing issues, cancellations and overall downturn in trade.

Mr Neill 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.”

Calling on the Executive to reveal their plans without delay, he said the mixed messages were 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,” he said.

“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.”

He continued: “Based on feedback from our latest survey, our industry will expect to make losses of between £250m to £300m. 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.”

Three hospitality business owners gave their views anonymously in the Hospitality Ulster.

The first said: “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.”

The second commented:”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.”

The third said: “Cancellations are (the) only reason phone ringing. How do we pay our staff - the few loyal staff we have left? No support. No guidance. No hope.”

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