How much more can the hospitality sector bear?

How much more can the hospitality sector bear?
Myles O’Brien warns of a grim winter ahead

Things are good at The Tavern in Murrisk near the tourist haven of Westport in Co. Mayo. They’ve just celebrated their 18th birthday, Christmas bookings are strong and the pink paintwork is bright as ever. However owner Myles O’Brien who is Tourism Officer with Mayo Vintners has a stark warning for the hospitality sector. “Three successive blows have just landed on our shoulders, and the outlook is grim for less established businesses”, he says, “Firstly the VAT increase in the budget, secondly the increase in minimum wage beginning in January, and now a 2% rates increase. It’s a huge burden for everyone in the hospitality sector”.

In the recent budget the VAT rate went up by 4.5%, reverting to the full 13.5% levy. According to Myles O’Brien, “This might be sustainable for hotels, pubs and restaurants in the major urban centres with high footfall and year round business. It’s a different case for smaller, independent businesses in more rural areas, especially when there is a seasonal nature to their business”.

Minimum wage is set to increase from €9.55 an hour to €9.80 an hour. This might seem like a small increase, but multiply it up by any number of staff and it adds up to hundreds of euros a week. The final blow was at last week’s Mayo County Council Annual Budget Meeting when a 2% hike in rates was passed.

Add in all the uncertainties which Brexit brings, potential price hikes and a dip in tourist numbers from the UK and it’s starting to look like a perfect storm for businesses in rural Ireland which are already susceptible to unpredictable seasonal factors. “It’s not going too far to say job losses are likely. Indeed this could be the death knell for some small hospitality businesses”, warns Myles O’Brien.

There may well be changes but locals can rest assured that The Tavern is very much committed to maintaining the standards they’ve set over the last 18 years. The welcome for everyone will be warm – for the Christmas season and well beyond.
press release

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