Tourism bodies want swift action to save industry

Tourism bodies want swift action to save industry

Tourism operators are warning of the need for immediate interventions to help preserve the industry. 

A new task force formed to minimise the impact of Covid-19 is not due to report back to the Minister until the third quarter of this year.

The tourism, food and retail sectors have been the worst affected by the pandemic, with more than 90% of staff in the sectors receiving emergency state support due to job losses. 

Some 75% of tourist visitation in Ireland is based on international travel, meaning the coming months are unlikely to see much of an improvement.

The new group has been tasked with preparing a recovery plan for the sector, including a set of recommendations on how it can "adapt and recover in the changed tourism environment". 

The plan will identify priority aims and market opportunities for the period 2020-2023, and report to the Minister "in Q3 of this year".

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), which is represented on the task force by IHF President Elaine Fitzgerald Kane, welcomed the establishment of the group, but said immediate measures are required to address the challenges facing tourism and hospitality.

Tim Fenn, IHF Chief Executive, said: "The immediate impact has been the closure of thousands of tourism businesses throughout the country, including over 90% of hotels. 

"Time is now of the essence as we begin to reopen the sector, and this will require a package of sector-specific measures to protect the 260,000 jobs supported by our industry.

One of the lessons learnt from the financial crisis was the requirement to act extremely quickly so that large parts of the economy are not obliterated, with long-term consequences.

"The impact would be particularly devastating for the regions with 70% of tourism employment located outside of Dublin. 

"Hotels and guesthouses not only provide local employment opportunities, they buy local services, source locally produced food and provide a vital infrastructure in support of local business and communities." 

Among the IHF proposals are liquidity measures such as grants, the reduction in tourism VAT, and the continuation of the job subsidy scheme.

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), represented by Ruth Andrews, who will chair the task force, has previously called for 'staycation vouchers', tax cuts and liquidity support. 

ITIC's own revival plan for the sector is due to be published by the end of June.

Tourism bodies want swift action to save industry
Minister for Sport Trade & Tourism Shane Ross. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin, said the task force is to spearhead economic recovery for the sector.

Mr Ross said towns and cities risk not recovering from the loss of tourism jobs and that this "cannot be allowed to happen".

The 14-person task force will be chaired by Ruth Andrews of the ITIC and Irish Tour Operators Association (ITOA). 

It includes representation from the IHF, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, as well as Stephen Kavanagh, former CEO of Aer Lingus; Ken Spratt, the head of tourism and sport at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; John Herlihy, VP EMEA and LATAM at LinkedIn; Center Parcs CEO Martin Dalby; and Eoghan Corry, travel industry commentator and broadcaster.

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