GREATLY increased energy prices are going to pose challenges not just for business this winter, but for everyone in the country, warns Allen Flynn, proprietor of the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis.
“It is a very daunting time, for everybody, whether you’re in a one-bedroom flat or a four-bedroom house, whether you’re running a business or not, every citizen is going to be affected by this,” he says.
Mr Flynn says while the Old Ground has cut energy usage in recent years, those savings will be more than wiped out this year.
“In terms of ourselves here, what we’ve done over the last number of years is introduce a very strong energy consumption programme, so we can be as sustainable as possible.
“That has brought significant reductions through LED lighting and everything like that. We’ve been very happy that our consumption has dropped.
“But regardless of what we’ve managed to achieve in the last number of years, the fact is that we’re now going to be paying literally four times what we were paying in 2019.”
Businesses won’t be able to pass on all the increased costs to customers, and there will be a need to go back to basics and look at what is feasible.
“It’s going to ask us to rethink our business model. As reluctant as we might be to do it, it may mean curtailing some of the services that we operate in the hotel, things that may use more gas and things like that.
“We may have to restrict the hours that we’re open for those, but you’re trying to balance that with keeping as much employment as possible. It’s a very uncertain time.”
While it doesn’t apply to the Old Ground, he said that hotels that have leisure facilities and swimming pools, will have a big challenge to meet. In his own business, they may look to make things more concentrated.
“We may look at cutting off a number of bedrooms for a period, if they’re within one quarter of the hotel.
“They’re the kind of projects that you look at, if you can cut them off for three months or whatever, come down to baseline business, keep it at that, and manage it as best you can.”
He says the biggest objective will be “to sustain a business model that we can stay open and maximise the amount of people we can keep in employment”.
The summer saw a big labour shortage in the hospitality sector, but he felt his business coped well.
“We came through a very tough period over the summer, and we got a new, younger workforce.
“In 2019 there would have been very few summer staff under the age of 18, this year a significant majority were under the age of 18.
“We got a very energetic bunch to start working with us, what’s wonderful is that they spent the summer with us, and now we’re looking at hopefully having them for 2023, 2024 and onwards, we may get a number of years out of them.”
However, the downside is those people aren’t available now, and business is still hectic.
“Unfortunately everyone is gone back to school now, but it’s still very busy and will be until about mid-October when the season starts to die off. We’re still at a very high occupancy rate and it’s a very tough period at the moment.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.