Irish holidaymakers set to be main tourism revenue source this year

Fáilte Ireland’s chief ‘hopeful’ domestic travel will return in the summer

 A Survive to Thrive tourism scheme will provide  €55m in supports for businesses not covered by other schemes.  Photograph: iStock

A Survive to Thrive tourism scheme will provide €55m in supports for businesses not covered by other schemes. Photograph: iStock

 

Tourism businesses have been advised to plan on the basis that Irish holidaymakers will be their main source of revenue this year as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Paul Kelly, the chief executive of Fáilte Ireland, made the remarks as both he and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said the Government plans to safely reopen international travel as early as possible, but could not say when this will be.

Ms Martin pledged that there will be “no cliff-edge ending” to financial support for the sector such as the Covid-19 Restrictions Support Scheme and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Those participating in today’s Survive to Thrive event were also told of €55 million in supports for businesses not covered by other schemes. Types of businesses eligible to participate in the new Tourism Business Continuity Scheme from this month include outdoor activity providers such as bike tours, surf schools and caravan and camp sites.

Mr Kelly outlined how the industry once supported 260,000 jobs but revenue declined by 80 per cent – or €6 billion – in 2020 and tens of thousands of workers became unemployed. He detailed Fáilte Ireland’s efforts to prepare for a recovery.

He warned of the ability of the virus “to make any kind of timeline planning or future forecasting nigh on impossible” but added “there is light at the end of the tunnel” citing the rollout of vaccines around the world.

Mr Kelly said his organisation is “hopeful that some kind of domestic tourism activity can start again this summer” adding that it’s too early to predict when international travel will be reopened.

“On balance it is probably best to plan on the basis that the domestic market will be the primary source of revenue again this year,” he said.

‘Incredibly competitive’

Mr Kelly cited Tourism Ireland research predicting that domestic tourism will resume first followed by visitors from nearby markets such as the United Kingdom and Europe and then those coming from the United States and further afield.

He said the Irish offering will need to be “incredibly competitive” in quality and pricing as “businesses all around the world are desperate to attract visitors”.

One positive note he struck was the rise in household savings here and internationally with an increase of €13 billion reported in Ireland alone for 2020. Mr Kelly said: “Some of these savings will eventually find a way into the hard-pressed bank accounts [of] tourism businesses.”

He also said there’s a keen interest in travel and “people are itching to visit friends and relatives to get a break from their own locality, and to get back to seeing the world”.

Ms Martin said a recovery won’t happen overnight and told tourism businesses: “I want to assure you that the Government will make every effort to facilitate inbound tourism at the earliest possible opportunity, when it is safe to do so.”

She detailed the financial help provided by the State and said: “There will be no cliff-edge ending to these supports.” Ms Martin said tourism has “faced and overcome many challenges” listing the 2010 ash cloud, the 2008 financial crisis, foot and mouth disease and the Sars pandemic. She said she’s confident that with Government support the industry will overcome the challenges it faces now.