Hotels and guesthouses across the country are facing their harshest ever start to a new year due to a collapse in room occupancy figures, according to the latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

Booking levels for hotel rooms of just 8% are being reported for January, dropping back to 6% for February.

This follows already historically low occupancy levels of 25% reported for December.

IHF Chief Executive Tim Fenn is urging the Government to review the operation of its Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) which currently excludes hotels.

"Due to an anomaly in how the Government has structured the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, hotels are now being excluded despite a record fall in revenues, even where they meet the required 75% drop in turnover," he said.

With the local authority rates waiver due to lapse on 31st December 2020, the IHF is also seeking an extension of the period for a further six months at least – to 30th June 2021.

"The time-period should coincide with business interruption due to Covid.

"After that, payment of local authority rates should be based on reduced levels of activity due to the crisis and until the industry has recovered.

"Businesses cannot be expected to pay rates on historical turnover figures that do not reflect the significantly lower levels of business that hoteliers are experiencing," added Mr Fenn.

The IHF survey was carried out on 15-17th December, and the results are based on the response of 290 properties with 30,650 guest rooms spread across the country.

Commenting on the lifting of inter-county travel restrictions on Friday, Mr Fenn said that hotels and guesthouses are looking forward to welcoming guests back over the festive period.

"One thing is for certain, guests can be assured of a very warm welcome, with hoteliers throughout the country pulling out all the stops to ensure they have a truly enjoyable, very safe and well-deserved break away this Christmas," he said.

Ireland's beer sector significantly impacted by closure of hospitality sector

Meanwhile, Ireland's beer sector has been significantly impacted by Covid-19 this year, as a result of the extended closure of the hospitality sector, according to Drinks Ireland|Beer.

The Ibec trade association, which represents beer producers in Ireland, released figures from Revenue which show that sales of beer were down by 15% between January and September 2020, compared with the same period last year.

The figures show that draught beer sales were particularly hard-hit, as they take place in the on-trade.

They fell by 57% during this period (Q1-Q3), compared to 2019.

Looking specifically at April to June, the figures show that draught beer sales fell by 93%.

Jonathan McDade, Head of Drinks Ireland|Beer said that the figures show that despite some commentary to the contrary, consumption declined as a result of Covid-19 and the closure of pubs.

"This data demonstrates the knock-on impact that closures have had, not only on hospitality venues, but also on their many suppliers and the wider business ecosystem in which they operate, including beer producers," he said.