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Tourism industry seeks €1.5bn grant and ‘staycation vouchers’

Vouchers could be redeemed against domestic holiday homes

The Waterford Greenway. Many tourism businesses are hoping that domestic Irish tourists – themselves prevented from travelling abroad – can be tempted to take holidays at home. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The tourism industry has called for a suite of support measures to be included in the next programme for government, including €1.5 billion in grant aid and low-cost loans and a State-funded “staycation voucher” for citizens to redeem against a holiday at home later this year.

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (Itic), has also called for the appointment of a dedicated minister for tourism with “significant economic clout” to lead the sector’s revival following Covid-19, as well as a 5 per cent VAT rate for the duration of the next government, which could be up to five years.

The industry employed 265,000 at its peak before the crisis hit and generated €2 billion in taxes from a revenue base of about €9 billion. Many of its workers have been laid off, however, and it is expected to have a torrid year as travel is limited and social distancing becomes the norm until a vaccine is found

“Tourism is the very definition of the free and unfettered movement of people,” said Itic. The arrival of the new coronavirus had “swiftly and mercilessly ... decimated” the industry, which Itic said is “the lifeblood of regional Ireland”.

The industry has called for a €1 billion pot of grant aid for stricken businesses, as well as €500 million in State-backed cheap liquidity loans. It has also called for the roughly €186 million of funding given to the two State agencies charged with tourism development – Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland – to be increased to €300 million.

International tourism

International tourism into Ireland is expected to be minimal this year due to travel restrictions, consumer fears over the virus and a decimated aviation industry. Many tourism businesses are hoping that domestic Irish tourists – themselves prevented from travelling abroad – can be tempted to take holidays at home. The proposed “staycation voucher” would be redeemable on home holidays.

Other measures sought by the sector include a development fund to attract air routes back into the State; even before Covid-19, Tourism Ireland, which markets the 32 counties to tourists abroad, had feared a 4 per cent reduction in inbound air capacity over the winter. With the aviation industry among the worst hot sectors globally, it may take years to build back up the island’s level of connectivity.

“We expect no international visitation this year so Government must intervene to stabilise the industry,” said Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, Itic’s chief executive. The confederation’s chairwoman, Ruth Andrews, said that without massive State support “businesses will go under and the tourism product that has served Ireland so well for so long will be massively diminished”.

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