Killarney could prove to be barometer for tourism recovery

Killarney could prove to be barometer for tourism recovery
The empty jarvey rank in the centre of Killarney. The town's Chamber of Tourism and Commerce President Paul Sherry: “There have been upsets and recessions before and Killarney has always bounced back quite strongly. We'll stay positive and hopefully we will get back on our feet as soon as possible."

As Ireland’s tourism capital Killarney is a barometer for the industry nationally and how business is impacted in the town could offer a forecast for the sector.

The jarvey rank, usually a busy focal point for locals and tourists alike, is deserted as no jaunting cars ferry visitors to the National Park.

Lockdown also means the Muckross Road, the town’s so-called Golden Mile, has fallen quieter than most residents will have seen it in their lifetime.

Covid-19 restrictions have silenced the streets –- usually at a standstill at this time of year due to bumper-to-bumper traffic as convoys of visitors converge on the town annually from St Patrick’s Day right through to late autumn and beyond.

“Killarney is completely on lockdown, you can see it clearly -- hotels and guesthouses are closed, as everybody is following government and HSE guidelines,” said Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce president Paul Sherry.

Is there any hope of salvaging the 2020 tourist season?

“From an international perspective, tourism is more than likely gone this year,” Mr Sherry said.

And in the wake of the global pandemic, it is unlikely that visitors from the US and the UK will be arriving any time soon -- which means Irish holidaymakers are what the town envisages welcoming as soon as the crisis is over.

“We’ll be relying heavily on the domestic market. People won’t be holidaying abroad and Killarney will be very well-placed as a destination.”

But for that to work, support is needed, he added.

“We will need Fáilte Ireland and government packages to kickstart that market,” said Mr Sherry.

“There have been upsets and recessions before and Killarney has always bounced back quite strongly. We will stay positive and hopefully we will get back on our feet as soon as possible,” he said.

“But that won’t happen without support, so we hope the Government will continue to provide that support after the virus has gone.”

Supports available to date have helped, with Kerry County Council deferring rates for three months.

“Companies are also availing of government subsidies for staff, the Covid-19 payment, but further support will be needed for businesses to get back on their feet and Chamber will be lobbying for that,” he said.

“It isn’t going to be easy, it’s going to take a while to build things back, but there’s a lot of resilient businesses in Killarney that will be chomping at the bit to get back in action once all this is over and once restrictions are lifted.”

"But, at the moment, the emphasis is on keeping everyone well and healthy," he noted.

“We want people to know Killarney Chamber is here to help them and assist them in any way -- and that there will be better days to come,” said Mr Sherry.

“We just don’t know how long this will last. 

"Hopefully, everybody will get back on their feet as soon as possible, and we’ll all be ready to get back to business as restrictions are lifted,” he said.

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