The northern hospitality industry has rebounded faster from Covid than other parts of the UK, according to a new report.
Analysis by the director of Ulster University’s Center for Economic Policy, Gareth Hetherington, for the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation (NIHF), found that the hotel sector in the North has contracted by about 40% in 2020, compared to 10% for the whole economy.
The economist said evidence of the strong recovery is supported by several economic indicators.
“This is most evident in the labor market where the number of salaried employees is now above its pre-pandemic level, and Northern Ireland has seen the fastest growth in the number of employees since March 2020 (pre -COVID) across all 12 regions of the UK,” he said. .
Official tourism data released this week showed hotel room occupancy rates in Northern Ireland failed to recover to 2019 levels in the first eight months of the year, but were well above 2021 rates.
The new Hotel Federation report also found hotel bosses in the north were retaining staff better than their peers in other parts of the UK, with employment falling 10% during the pandemic from 20 % somewhere else.
“These data are broadly consistent with direct feedback from hoteliers who indicated that their biggest challenge now is staff recruitment,” Mr Hetherington said.
“It was a problem across the board, but specific shortages were noted in the roles of chefs and cleaners.”
NIHF chief executive Janice Gault said Brexit and the pandemic have taken their toll on the hospitality labor market.
“There have been issues for many years and work to improve image, recruitment and retention has begun. A lack of skilled workers, a limited labor pool and prohibitive immigration policies add to the challenge, but it is hoped that by the end of 2022 the investments made in the sector will bear fruit.
“The industry is resilient and has become adept at dealing with change. The hotels are resilient by their very nature and continue to show a real commitment to the economy of Northern Ireland.
Full details of the report are due to be presented at a major industry event in Belfast on Tuesday.
Hospitality Exchange takes place over two days at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
José Pizarro, often described as the “godfather of Spanish cuisine in the UK”, will be part of the panel of speakers who will speak at the event.