Coronavirus worse than ‘9/11, Sars, volcanic ash cloud, foot and mouth combined’

Minister of State Brendan Griffin calls for new bank holiday and 0% tourism Vat rate

The Dáil was debating the impact of the pandemic on the tourism and hospitality sector. Photograph: iStock

The Dáil was debating the impact of the pandemic on the tourism and hospitality sector. Photograph: iStock

 

A new bank holiday should be implemented towards “the tail end of the year” according to Minister of State for Tourism Brendan Griffin who backed calls for a zero per cent Vat rate for the tourism and hospitality sector.

Highlighting the devastation caused to the industry Mr Griffin said job losses are estimated at more than 200,000 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He told the Dáil that the current crisis is greater than “9/11, SARS, the volcanic ash cloud and foot and mouth disease” combined and “it will take a huge effort to get tourism back” into a working recovery mode.

Mr Griffin said a taskforce is being established to support the sector. But Fianna Fáil spokesman Marc MacSharry said a task force was needed for the sector “with a direct line to Cabinet” and should include publicans, hoteliers and restaurateurs. Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said it must also represent employees.

Mr MacSharry criticised Government measures to support businesses as “one-size-fits-all” and “not worth the paper they were written on” and he called for hotels to be allowed to open in June rather than July as planned.

The Dáil was debating the impact of the pandemic on the tourism and hospitality sector.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane asked if the Government was taking seriously comments by Minister for Health Simon Harris about the possibility of a new bank holiday towards the end of the year.

Mr Cullinane said bank holiday weekends were valuable to the tourism sector.

Mr Griffin said that an additional bank holiday “at the tail end of the year” would have economic benefits.

He also backed calls by businesses and TDs for a zero Vat rate to be applied to the tourism and hospitality sector even though he does not have the power to implement the provision.

He acknowledged that “while it is a matter for the Department of Finance primarily certainly my view in the current context the zero percent Vat rate would be the appropriate rate for the industry”. He said it would be much needed for the sector to recover.

Mr Griffin said tourism accounted for 11 per cent of employment in the State, supporting 260,000 jobs and international tourists last year spent more than €5 billion in Ireland compared to €2.4 billion by Irish residents.

Green Party TD Malcolm Noonan said it was time to reverse the disproportionate spend of €5 billion on foreign holidays compared to €2 billion on domestic holidays.

The Minister said Covid-19 had affected travel and tourism like no other event in history.”

He added that many tourism businesses have now written off 2020 completely and some may not reopen until 2021.

“Others may go out of business and never reopen. It is likely to take years to recover business to anything like 2019 levels.”

Independent TD Mattie McGrath highlighted education tourism and said schools providing English language teaching to international students were in limbo.