Hotel and guesthouse owners have reported an increase in bookings which followed the Government's recent announcement that hotels will re-open on June 2.

The latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) shows booking levels nationally now average 31% for July and 27% for August – the key summer months.

This compares to levels of 23% and 21% respectively just ahead of the announcement.

Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, President of the IHF, said the increase in bookings in the past fortnight has been a welcome morale boost to its members and the thousands of people employed in Irish hotel sector.

"The domestic market was a real positive last year and we expect home holidays to be very important for the sector again this year," Ms Fitzgerald Kane said.

She added that not surprisingly, the federation is expecting to see stronger demand in popular tourism destinations and hotels offering packages and facilities for families.

"However, we would encourage people to explore all parts across the country, as they did last year. There is excellent value available. Guests should shop around and contact hotels directly to find out what special offers are available, including mid-week specials for those whose dates are flexible," she added.

Elaina Fitzgerald Kane also today called on the Government to facilitate the return of vaccinated overseas travellers quickly to give a clear sign to overseas markets that Ireland is open for business again, similar to reopening announcements in other European countries such as Greece, Portugal and Malta.

"As an island nation international tourism is critically important, accounting for over 70% of tourism revenue pre-Covid," she noted.

The IHF President said she welcomed the agreement reached by EU member states yesterday to allow fully vaccinated visitors from outside the EU to enter the bloc this summer for holidays.

She urged the Government to implement the agreement at the earliest opportunity, which would allow vaccinated travellers from other key markets such as the US, who typically travel in the autumn.

"This would be very important in extending the season for many Irish tourism businesses, while also supporting the recovery in Dublin, where occupancy levels lag the rest of the country," she added.

Ms Fitzgerald Kane said hotels require a clear commitment from the Government to retain the tourism VAT rate.

"The 9% VAT is a critical measure for international competitiveness and must be in place until 2025 to assist recovery and secure a viable and sustainable future for the industry," she stated.

The IHF also also called for a firm commitment from government on business and employment supports for the sector into 2022.