Hospitality voucher scheme for off-peak season under review

Emergency supports to be wound down as ‘we start to see Covid in rear-view mirror’

The Government may consider a voucher scheme option to encourage tourism in the off-peak season according to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath.

The move would follow the conclusion of the unsuccessful stay-and-spend scheme.

He said the Government would not rule out a voucher system.

“I do think that we should listen to the hospitality sector. And I’ve heard many of them make the point that the time when they will probably need support of that nature would be during the off-peak season,” said Mr McGrath.


The Minister also said emergency expenditure on Covid-19 supports will be unwound gradually “as we start to see Covid in the rear-view mirror”.

The removal of supports needed “to be done in a very careful and a gradual way over time”. And the Government will set out its plans about those supports in the next three to four weeks, he added.

Mr McGrath was speaking on RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme.

Following the ending of the unsuccessful save-and-spend scheme for the hospitality sector, the Minister said “we need to consider if we are providing additional resources from the public purse . . . when is the most opportune time to provide that support. It seems to me that there is a logic in providing support . . . during the off-peak rather than the peak season.”

No job

Media reports have suggested the payments would be kept in place until September. But the Minister said the Government has not made any decision in relation to specific rates beyond the end of June.

“We have [said] . . . supports won’t come to an abrupt end because we acknowledged that that would have a very serious negative impact.”

He said there are people for whom their job will not be available to them again for a couple of months yet.

“Changes to the wage subsidy scheme need to be very carefully calibrated . . . we don’t want to make changes that result in people going from the aid subsidies game to the pandemic unemployment payment for example.”

He added that “people who rely on the indoor hospitality sector for their employment, do not yet have a date for the reopening” and the return of their jobs “so Government needs to take that into account in relation to the extension of the supports and the rate at which they are paid”.

Mr McGrath reiterated there will be no “cliff-edge” cut in business subsidy and unemployment supports. But he warned that the supports were unsustainable in the medium to long term.

There are currently over 300,000 jobs being directly supported through the wage subsidy scheme, “so there is a need for government to take care. What we want to do here is to support the economic recovery.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times