The spiralling cost of insurance is having a major impact on the hospitality trade. That's according to Wexford hotelier and Chairperson of the South East Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) Mr Colm Neville.
Hoteliers across the county are calling on the government to take urgent action to address the growing cost of insurance and Mr Neville says that hotels have experienced 'enormous increases' in insurance premiums in recent years with costs continuing to soar as a result of excessive levels of awards for personal injury claims.
Commenting on the Judicial Council Bill, which is expected to come into law shortly, Mr Neville, owner of The Riverside Park Hotel in Enniscorthy, said: 'While we welcome this legislation, it is imperative that it results in a meaningful review of levels of damages without delay. The time for inaction is over. Awards for soft tissue injuries must be brought down significantly in line with international norms.'
According to the IHF, 62% of hotels have seen hikes in insurance costs over the last 12 months. Of these, the average increase in premiums was 28% year on year. Some 90% of hotels say that they are concerned about the impact of insurance costs on their business.
'Current increases are unsustainable,' Mr Neville blasted. 'Exorbitant insurance costs are curtailing the ability of hotels to re-invest in their businesses with knock-on effects for the tourism industry.'
He added that slow progress on personal injury claims to date is contributing to a 'claims culture' which is getting out of control.
'It's creating a huge challenge not only for businesses, but for civic organisations, sports groups and charities. As a society it affects us all and needs to be addressed,' he said.
'Another key area that must be addressed is the levels of fraudulent and exaggerated claims,' Mr Neville added. 'A zero tolerance approach needs to be adopted in order to create an effective deterrent. This requires the funding of a dedicated central Garda resource specifically created and tasked with investigating fraudulent cases for potential prosecution. It is an area where insurers, the legal system, Garda Síochána and the Government all have a vital role to play.'