Tourism heads for choppy water with two Green Ministers at the helm

Cantillon: the sector faces a global depression, fears around flying due to Covid-19 and reduced capacity because of social distancing

To combat climate change the Greens  previously vowed to crimp aviation with new taxes. This would be devastating for the Irish tourism sector  as 87% of all arrivals to this island are by air.  Photograph: PA Wire

To combat climate change the Greens previously vowed to crimp aviation with new taxes. This would be devastating for the Irish tourism sector as 87% of all arrivals to this island are by air. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Ireland’s tourism industry has ended up in the worst of all worlds following the formation of the new coalition Government. It has sent discouraging signals to an industry that is among the State’s largest employers, with 265,000 workers before the virus shut it down.

Even a government well disposed to the industry would find it difficult to adequately help it given the trouble that lies ahead. But the new Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Green Party coalition seems, at best, aloof to the threats facing the sector. At worst, the new Ministers with direct oversight of the sector may even be hostile to critical parts of it, such as aviation.

The challenges facing tourism are multi-faceted and appear almost intractable.

Firstly, the world stands on the edge of a global depression, so discretionary expenditure on travel would be in trouble in any event.

Secondly, travel is a major risk when it comes to the virus, so even if people could afford to holiday they my be either too afraid or restricted from doing so by public health authorities.

Finally, tourism businesses that are able to open will find profitable trade elusive due to capacity cuts from social distancing.

Never in its history has the sector faced such challenges all at once. And that’s before the prospect of a no-deal Brexit in December affecting the State’s largest source of visitors.

In the last Fine Gael-led government, minister Shane Ross was often accused by the industry of neglect. How the sector must be pining for him now.

Responsibility for tourism in the new coalition has been carved out of the Department of Transport, and inexplicably lumped in with Media, Sport, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. That department is led by the Greens’ Catherine Martin, beloved of the hardline left wing of her party.

As tourism moves to Martin, direct responsibility for the crucial aviation sector stays behind in the Department of Transport, to be overseen by the Greens leader Eamon Ryan.

To combat climate change the Greens previously vowed to crimp aviation with new taxes. This would be devastating for the Irish tourism sector as 87 per cent of all arrivals to this island are by air.

With two Green Ministers and an existential economic crisis the industry is worried.

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