Calls for reversal of wage subsidy cuts amid ‘collapse’ in festive bookings

Hospitality sector says consumers growing increasingly cautious in latest Covid surge

Business representative group Ibec has called on the Government to ‘urgently’ increase State financial supports to the hospitality, retail, tourism and entertainment sectors. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Business representative group Ibec has called on the Government to ‘urgently’ increase State financial supports to the hospitality, retail, tourism and entertainment sectors. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

Business and hospitality groups are pushing for the Government to roll back recent cuts to the pandemic wage subsidy scheme, due to the impact of rising Covid-19 cases on the economy.

Business representative group Ibec has called on the Government to “urgently” increase State financial supports to the hospitality, retail, tourism and entertainment sectors, and reverse cuts to the rate of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

Danny McCoy, Ibec chief executive, said businesses complying with public health advice and helping to suppress Covid-19 were bearing “the brunt of the devastating economic impact” of the pandemic.

“It is clear that the latest concerns around Covid have seen consumers grow more cautious and many businesses have seen a collapse in their bookings for the crucial revenue-generating festive period,” he said. Mr McCoy said if financial supports were not forthcoming the Government would see “mass closures and job losses across the country”.

The business group called for a targeted extension of a commercial rates waiver for Covid-hit businesses into 2022, and an extension of the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), to support businesses who lost significant income due to pandemic restrictions or limits.

Elaina Fitzgerald-Kane, president of the Irish Hotels Federation, echoed Ibec’s calls for the cuts to the EWSS to be rolled back. The level of lost income hotels were dealing with due to cancellations over the coming weeks was “profound,” she said.

“Across the hotel and guest house sector since the end of November and looking forward to January 10th - the entire festive period, we’ve recorded €92 million in cancellations - it’s over €100,000 per hotel,” she said.

The majority of cancellations were for events, such as office parties, but smaller bookings were also cancelling, she said. “It’s very difficult because in normal times business in December would sustain the early months of the year - it kind of acts as a buffer,” Ms Fitzgerald-Kane said.

The cut to the wage subsidy scheme this week had been a “cliff edge”, given recent public health advice and rising Covid-19 cases, she said.

The hotel lobby group was calling for the rate of the subsidy scheme to return to its previous level until the second quarter of next year.

If changes were not made there was a “concern” in the sector that “great work” done to date sustaining jobs during the pandemic would “come undone,” Ms Fitzgerald-Kane said.

Backbenchers in both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil called for the wage subsidy cuts to be reversed, at separate parliamentary party meetings on Wednesday.