MORE than 1,500 pubs, hotels and restaurants have gone to the wall in the past five years, costing thousands of jobs, a stark survey will reveal today.
And one in three rural pubs now say they will struggle to survive into the future, despite massive efforts within the industry to woo more customers.
The study by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI), due to be published today, reveals that licensed premises have suffered significant falls in revenue over the past five years.
And although this decline began prior to 2004, when the last such survey was carried out, the process has accelerated in the past 18 months, DIGI said.
The survey is the largest ever undertaken of the sector, and found that the 1,500 pubs, hotels, nightclubs and restaurants closed due to a combination of factors, such as tighter drink-driving laws, the smoking ban and the shift to drinking at home.
The report also highlights the dramatic fall in employment and revenue in the drinks industry, as well as the mounting toll of costs to the sector.
Most of the licensed premises surveyed are independent or family-run businesses, with pubs outside Dublin facing the bleakest future.
Since 2004, over 80pc of licensed premises say they have taken measures to try and improve business, ranging from major refurbishments to adding a separate smoking area in two-thirds of cases.
Some 57pc have begun advertising for custom, while 44pc have introduced catering and 43pc have begun providing entertainment. Over half of all licensed premises now serve food to try and diversify their business, the survey shows.
DIGI represents the wider drinks industry, including manufacturers, publicans, retailers, hotels, nightclubs and off-licences.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners' Association will today highlight their concerns over the findings of the report, which was carried out by Dublin City University Business School.
Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has called for urgent budget measures to support tourism.
They want Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to abolish the €10 air travel tax, which they say is putting overseas tourists off.
"As an island destination, we need to do everything we can to attract visitors here, not create unnecessary barriers that make routes to and from Ireland less attractive," said John Power, chief executive of the IHF.
They also called for local authority rates to be reduced by about 30pc. Two-thirds of local authorities have increased their annual rates this year, despite the economic situation, Mr Power added.
The IHF also called for marketing funds to be targeted at Britain and business tourism, and for the employment subsidy scheme to be extended to the tourism sector.