Tourism industry wants airport testing and €500m in grants to save 100,000 jobs

Industry group publishes 5-point ‘call to action’ to save operators from insolvency

Itic wants €500 million in  grants to help tourism operators stay in business. Pictured is Bundoran in  Co Donegal. Photograph: James Connolly

Itic wants €500 million in grants to help tourism operators stay in business. Pictured is Bundoran in Co Donegal. Photograph: James Connolly

 

The tourism industry claims 100,000 jobs could be saved if the Government commits to a new plan to prop up the beleaguered sector, which has been effectively shut to foreign visitors by State anti-virus measures for six months.

Businesses such as airlines, hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and other visitor-focused operators have endorsed a new Tourism Call to Action five-point plan, which was published on Wednesday by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (Itic), an industry umbrella lobbying group.

The plan calls for the scrapping of 14-day quarantine guidelines for visitors from non-green list countries at airports and ports, to be replaced by a “rapid testing regime” to facilitate travel; a U-turn on recent changes to the State’s wage subsidy scheme, which this month lowered the subsidies available and tightened qualifying criteria; €500 million of grants to help tourism operators stay in business; a reduction in VAT for tourism-related services from 13.5 per cent to 9 per cent, and a waiving of rates for until April 2021; and fresh funds for State tourism promotion agencies to attract visitors.

Sectoral report

A sectoral report produced for the Government in recent weeks acknowledged that up to 200,000 jobs could go in the sector over the next year due to anti-virus restrictions. However, Itic estimates that half of those could be saved if ministers heed the “call to action” and bail out the sector, which it says lost €27 million per day over the summer.

Itic said it has requested meetings with Catherine Martin, the Minister for Tourism, and also Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Business and Jobs. No date has yet been scheduled for the meetings, although the requests have been acknowledged.

Ms Martin previously met Itic as part of a Tourism Recovery Taskforce meeting during the summer. However, Itic expressed “frustration” that many of that taskforce’s recommendations, some of which are similar to its five-point plan such as easing quarantine rules, have been “ignored”.

“The green list of countries does nothing for inbound tourism and needs to be replaced by a comprehensive and rapid Covid-19 testing policy so that tourists can enter Ireland freely and safely,” said Itic chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh.

Some other European countries, such as Italy, Spain and Greece, opened their borders to foreign visitors during the summer. The move has led to an increase in infection rates but, as of yet, not the uncontrolled “second wave” that some scientists warned would follow a reopening of borders.