THE recent bank holiday weekend gave us all a good feeling of what the summer might bring.
While the weather was mixed, there was no doubt there was a major increase in the numbers of holidaymakers about – as envisaged by the traffic delays in many of our larger towns on Saturday and Sunday.
The familiar traffic reports of delays coming into Innishannon from the Cork side on Friday evening were another great signal that the tourists are coming back.
And while there seems to be a healthy helping of foreign visitors coming to the south west in recent weeks – providing a welcome boost to our local economy – what is not so welcome is the news this week that the hospitality sector is struggling to keep up.
Our news report by Kieran O’Mahony reveals the fears of those working at all levels of the hospitality sector about how they will man their businesses at the height of the season, in July and August.
One restaurateur said the lack of staff is the worst they have ever seen in their 50 years of operation.
Others have been forced to close for two or three days a week due to being unable to recruit staff.
The reason they cite for this shocking shortage of labour is a combination of factors leading to a ‘perfect storm’.
Apparently, the pandemic – which of course hit the hospitality sector more than any other – saw staff moving on from the sector because of the extended closure of most businesses.
The Irish re-trained, and the non-nationals returned to their own countries, it seems.
Then there was the theory that the Covid payments meant some students were able to build up a substantial ‘war chest’, because while they were getting paid due to being unable to work, they were also unable to spend it.
Now, with the economy reopened, they have chosen to enjoy the break and spend some of that saved cash on their own holidays.
Others have said they now want their weekends free, but that doesn’t suit a busy hospitality sector.
Then there is the problem with accommodation for staff. Even our lifeguards have, for the second year in a row, struggled to find somewhere to live near beaches.
For coastal towns with busy summer seasons, hotel and café staff are now in competition with tourists for the vastly-reduced available bed spaces.
Many media have reported this week that some hoteliers have been forced to operate below capacity because they simply cannot find the staff to keep all their rooms, or facilities, open.
This will have a subsequent effect on our tourism offering, with many visitors disappointed to see reduced offerings and opening hours in our hotels, restaurants and guesthouses.
Almost all players in the West Cork tourism sector have said they are turning away business as a result.
It is such a shame that, at a time when they were all chomping at the bit to get back to full services after two very depressing years, they are now being forced to cut back because either they cannot get staff, or the staff cannot get somewhere to stay.
These are both issues that the government is keeping very quiet about of late. But there is not much point pumping money into elaborate tourism drives, if the overall offering is below par. It could do more damage than good.