Radical action needed to accelerate recovery in hospitality

Restaurant and tourism industries seek budget support following crippling restrictions

 A deserted Grafton Street in Dublin at the height of lockdown. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

A deserted Grafton Street in Dublin at the height of lockdown. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Some hospitality and tourism jobs are not coming back, at least, not any time soon. The Restaurants’ Association of Ireland (RAI), which represents one of those industries hardest hit by Government Covid-19 restrictions, is not surprisingly seeking continued wage supports and other concessions in Budget 2022.

The organisation also believes that the State should boost its tourism budget by more than 60 per cent to €300 million – from €186 million – to promote the country as a holiday destination overseas.

Its logic is that, in 2019, more than 10 million tourists came here, spending €9.3 billion in the process. The equivalent this year will be €2.4 billion, just 26 per cent of the total two years ago, so a huge gap needs bridging.

In fact, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, which produced these figures, believes it will be 2026 before we get back to 2019 levels. That assumes the Government supports this with the right policies.

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Those policies will involve not just overseas marketing, but also working to restore air travel. Airlines were the pandemic’s frontline while extra tough restrictions here, combined with ongoing curbs on travel between key markets such as the US, left Irish carriers more exposed than most.

There are further challenges here. Extra fuel taxes, that the EU plans introducing as part of its overall effort to tackle climate change, threaten to make flying more expensive. This is not good news for an island which relies heavily on air travel.

Earlier this year, the Central Bank suggested that once the Covid tide had finally receded, about 100,000 extra people would be left without work. That means that one in every 20 jobs that existed at the start of 2020 will have disappeared.

A lot of those jobs will be in tourism, hospitality and travel. The Drinks Industry Group said on Monday that an uneven recovery from the Covid-19 crisis meant there would be 40,000 fewer jobs available in the drinks and hospitality industry next year,

It is only natural for these industries’ lobbyists to seek support from the State, via the budget or wherever else. But it is going to take radical action and a long time to get these businesses back to where they were two years ago.

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