A leading tourism business group said a voucher plan for every adult to spend €200 on accommodation and food to encourage staycations would cost the exchequer €400m.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) said the ostensibly high cost of the new promotion can be justified because, it said, only €2m of an existing Stay & Spend Scheme originally costed at €270m by the Government has so far been drawn down.
Instead, the "complicated" scheme that is based on people claiming back tax on their spending should be overhauled and replaced by a €200 voucher for every adult, said its chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh.
The revamped scheme would be similar to one the UK ran last year and would be aimed at encouraging staycations when the schools go back after summer in September to make up the shortfall of international tourists on which large parts of Irish tourism rely to make their money, he said.
The idea would be to encourage holidaymakers to take long weekend staycations through the autumn and winter months and not fly out of the country, as Europe opens up fully under the rollout of vaccines.
Mr O'Mara Walsh said that the €400m price tag of the revamped scheme includes the €270m allocated under the existing scheme, which expires this month.
“It beggars belief that government will just let this scheme wither away without any benefit to the public or the beleaguered tourism industry," Mr O'Mara said.
"The scheme urgently needs to be redesigned as an upfront voucher for every household and should run over the autumn period when industry will need all the help it can get,” he said.
Meanwhile, Central Bank governor Gabriel Makhlouf has reiterated that many small firms will fail to survive the Covid-19 crisis.
New findings from the Central Bank and the Economic and Social Research Institute showed that the fallout will affect many small firms and not just those worst-hit industries such as hospitality, as losses mount despite costs, he told a webinar conference organised with University of Limerick's Kemmy Business School.
So far, firms have been protected and somewhat shielded by the high level of government funding during the crisis.
However, "the viability and survival prospects of many affected firms remains highly uncertain and is likely to depend on a range of future policy choices," the governor said.
"These choices will be difficult, and will have profound implications for our economy,” he said.
Speaking at the same webinar conference, deputy governor Sharon Donnery said it will “be imperative our systems function smoothly so that restructuring of viable businesses can occur, and they can contribute to employment and growth of the economy”.
“The resilience of the indigenous business sector is critical to the overall functioning of the labour market and the economy, given its importance in employment, output and tax revenues,” she said.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told the conference the effects of "the current set of restrictions is around half that of the spring 2020 lockdown".