Welcome to my Presidents Report for March 2022.

As our focus shifts entirely to the people of Ukraine and the devastation that has been inflicted by Vladimir Putin and his Russian forces on this sovereign state, Europe remains united. The solidarity and support shown by not only Europe, but the rest of the World has been immense. The Sanctions that have been imposed on Putin will hopefully deter him from continuing his assault on Eastern Europe but what is required now is an immediate cease fire and a corridor for humanitarian aid to enter the areas that have been targeted. Democracy and our very way of life is being threatened and history will record our next moves and it is vital that we do not allow this to continue for any longer. As a National Association we will support in any way we can to assist the people of Ukraine and I am amazed by the actions of Hospitality businesses across Ireland helping in their own way. Our CEO Adrian Cummins has already engaged with An Taoiseach and pledged our support as an Industry and we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine throughout this devastating time.

March has always been a favourite time of year for me in the industry. There is a longer stretch in the evenings and it is traditionally an eventful month with exception to the last two years. The Pandemic should be behind us now and we can look forward to St Patrick’s Day celebrations and Mother’s Day this month. The struggle for staff continues to be a major burden on businesses up and down the country. There are still 40k hospitality jobs vacant. Close to 30% of tourism and hospitality businesses could face closure according to a report published by Failte Ireland. There are restaurants restricting their offering and closing different days to facilitate time off. Hotels are reducing availability of accommodation. This is no doubt very alarming and any initiatives that can help must be embraced by employers for the long-term benefit of the industry. Work experience for transition year and third level students may help with attracting potential future employees to our sector but it is not an immediate solution in my view. The speeding up of processing work permits which still stands at a 20-week waiting time is utterly ridiculous and needs an immediate solution because what is required is a qualified workforce that can deliver a quality experience to our tourists that will keep them coming year after year.

The cost of doing business continues to rise. Energy and fuel are at an all-time high, exasperated by the Ukraine crisis and sanctions imposed on Russia. Inflation is currently at 5% and rising. It is hard to see where it is all going but it is extremely tough on businesses and weathering the storm is not good enough after the traumatic 24 months we have just experienced. The EWSS has changed again for the final stage of the support and will end entirely on the 30th of April. The full rate of PRSI has been reinstated, the waiver of rates is due to be removed shortly. Each of these subsidies are an important component in our recovery and with the current cost of doing business we are facing difficult times ahead. A more staggered approach toward the removal of these vital supports is warranted.

Best Wishes,

Mark McGowan – President