MORE than €11.5m was spent on renovations and improvements to Cork hotels in spite of major concerns over VAT rates and Brexit.
That’s one finding of a survey by the local branch of the Irish Hotels Federation which also found that local hoteliers spent a further €7.5m promoting Cork as a destination nationally and internationally.
This was an increase of €2.5m from 2017.
On average, visitor spend was also up across all segments, in particular with domestic visitors, which increased by €10 per day in the first quarter of the year.
Room rates on average increased by 15%, although the rate range remains broad across the region.
The average room rate charged now ranges from €40 to €215 per night for a B&B in low season to 5-star city hotel in peak season. The average rate of hotels surveyed across the region was €109.
Neil Grant, chair of the IHF Cork branch and manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel, said its members are making huge efforts to now grow their businesses after years of recession, which in turn contributes to the local economy.
Identifying the reasons why visitors choose Cork as a destination, hoteliers said the main selling points are corporate business travel, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East tourism routes.
July to September was the busiest time of year for 96% of properties, and 35% of hoteliers said they believe there is an opportunity to grow business during the first six months of the year.
The survey also revealed that more than 350 jobs are currently available in the hotel sector in Cork. Of these, 170 are full time and 193 are part time positions. However, 94% of hoteliers surveyed said they find recruiting a challenge and are struggling to find staff.
Mr Grant said the IHF is taking a number of measures to address this, including a campaign to encourage students to consider a career in the hospitality sector after school, a local partnership with CIT to promote the industry and an apprentice initiative with the college to upskill local hotel staff, and they are also attending international recruitment fairs on behalf of members.
Looking ahead into 2019, almost 80% of hotels surveyed said they believe Brexit will affect their business while almost 100% said they are concerned about the increase in VAT, staff shortages, the recruitment legislation, and the additional capacity of rooms coming onto the market, without a confirmed Events Centre. Other concerns include the increasing cost of insurance and rising staff costs.