* CEO-designate upbeat about return of international travel
* Domestic tourism season to extend beyond winter into 2022
* Dalata eyeing lease opportunities as state supports end (Adds detail, quotes)
DUBLIN, April 29 (Reuters) - Ireland’s largest hotel operator Dalata Hotel Group expects to achieve very strong occupancy levels outside Dublin from June to August with a recovery in the capital possible from September, its incoming chief executive said.
Ireland’s government is set to sign off on a plan later on Thursday permitting hotels to open their doors to guests for the first time in more than six months on June 2, a senior minister said.
With hotels in its two markets of Ireland and the United Kingdom limited to accommodating essential workers, Dalata reported occupancy levels of just 14% in Dublin, 16% in regional Ireland and 13% in Britain when it reported a first-quarter loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of 3.6 million euros ($4.4 million) on Thursday.
“Each time the hotels have opened previously, business has picked up very quickly so what we would expect is regional Ireland for June, July and August should be very strong because there is a lot of pent-up demand,” Dermot Crowley told Reuters.
Crowley, currently the group’s deputy CEO, said he was reasonably upbeat about the prospects for Dublin hotels from September onwards with the hoped-for return of international tourism as well as some corporate travel.
Outgoing CEO Pat McCann said much of the group’s corporate business related to Dublin’s large hub of multinational firms who bring in large groups of people to do business in Ireland rather than single business travelers coming over for a meeting or conference, and that this area would recover much quicker.
Citing how the Irish domestic tourism market “took off” in December when hotels were briefly allowed to reopen, McCann also expects a continuation of trips beyond August into early 2022, particularly among couples and retirees.
After Dalata raised 94 million euros via a share placement last year to fuel post-pandemic growth in the United Kingdom, Crowley said on Thursday that it is primarily looking at acquiring leases in new developments or existing hotels who may struggle when state supports end.
The group has already had one or two discussions on taking over leases and expects more activity from September, he added. ($1 = 0.8252 euros)
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Edmund Blair and Emelia Sithole-Matarise