Drinks industry is concerned about itself, not Irish tourism

Restoring Tourism Ireland’s budget would bring in more visitors than cheaper booze

Pour me: Only about 54 cents of the pre-VAT price of a pint of Guinness, for example, is accounted for by excise. What tourist would notice if that was even  halved? Photograph: Eric Luke

Pour me: Only about 54 cents of the pre-VAT price of a pint of Guinness, for example, is accounted for by excise. What tourist would notice if that was even halved? Photograph: Eric Luke

 

It is almost that time of year again – budget time – when the multinational drinks industry wraps itself in the Tricolour of concern for Irish tourism, and tries to convince everybody that the way to boost visitor numbers is to cut taxes on alcohol.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (Digi), which represents manufacturers and publicans, has released a Brexit survey of 660 pubs and restaurants.

It found that almost half of the establishments reported a decline in tourists over the last year, even as the overall numbers visiting Ireland broke records.

The survey highlights that the number of British tourists, who account for 40 per cent of the total, have declined by 6.2 per cent so far in 2017.

Tourism authorities say that the decline has been made up for by an increase in other visitors. But Digi says British visitors spend proportionately more of their money in pubs here than visitors from other nations.

Digi says 98 per cent of the establishments surveyed think Irish excise on alcohol is too high. Then it gets down to the real business at hand: it says the “number one” recommendation for the Government to protect the tourism industry against Brexit is to reduce excise tax.

Marginal cut

Even a large cut to excise would only result in a marginal cut in the cost of a drink at retail level, in the pub. It is a volume tax, based on alcoholic strength. About 54 cents of the pre-VAT price of a pint of Guinness, for example, is accounted for by excise.

Even if you halved this, the impact would be barely noticed by a tourist who has only a casual acquaintance with the market prices of alcohol in Ireland.

If you want to boost the alcohol manufacturing industry, the “number one recommendation” is to cut excise.

If you want to protect Irish tourism against Brexit, the number one recommendation is to restore the mutilated budgets of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.