The State “will not turn away” refugees or asylum seekers despite the “short-term effect” on some areas of the tourism industry, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said on Wednesday.
The use of tourist accommodation for the housing of displaced Ukrainian citizens and asylum seekers could cost non-accommodation tourism providers more than €1.1 billion in lost revenue this year, an Oireachtas committee will hear later on Wednesday.
According to an opening statement due to be delivered by Fáilte Ireland to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, almost a third of all registered tourism stock outside Dublin is now contracted to the State.
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Speaking at the Inchicore Railway Works in Dublin on Wednesday morning, Mr Ryan claimed the sector would ultimately benefit from its approach to taking in refugees.
“I worked in tourism,” he said. “I know the real value it brings, particularly because it disperses economic benefits right across the country. We have to get the balance right. Part of that balance is also doing what we can to help people from Ukraine.
“I think the Irish people are fully committed to that. We have taken a large number of people in proportion to other European countries, but I think that’s right. It says something about our country that we are willing to take people in who are in real difficulty.
“Yes, there is a short-term effect on some areas of tourism. The hotel sector itself has not been as badly affected because they are under contract for all the accommodation, but we are not going to turn people away who are in need of our refuge at this time.
Our tourism sector in the long run will benefit from those values in our country – values of decency and being a welcoming place. In the long run it is more important we get that right.”
Fáilte Ireland last month said there was an “urgent need” for the Government to adopt a “more balanced approach” to the Ukraine refugee crisis, with a quarter of the State’s tourist accommodation currently unavailable.
The group’s chief executive Paul Kelly said the accommodation market is experiencing capacity constraints due to the humanitarian response to the Ukraine war and issues around housing supply.
“Nationally, between 20-30 per cent of the visitor accommodation stock could be unavailable for use in 2023 by tourists,” he said.
“There are counties and towns where the majority of tourist accommodation is currently unavailable to tourists, and if this remains the case across the summer, this will have a devastating impact on other businesses that rely on visitors staying in the area.”