The Irish Times view on the challenges facing Irish tourism: Crying wolf, again

Rather than criticise the Government, the industry should concentrate on giving visitors value for money

Crying wolf can become a self-defeating exercise. But that hasn’t stopped the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation from complaining of Government neglect and of its failure to insulate the industry from the possible effects of a hard Brexit. It demanded that Minister for Tourism Shane Ross should address the soaring cost of doing business here, while beefing up an inadequate budget for overseas marketing and investment.

The tourism sector is a vital part of the economy and, last year, it employed an estimated 300,000 people and contributed €2 billion in taxation. It was a record year, with 11 million visitors and a growth rate of 6 per cent.

It was in such a healthy state that, following years of procrastination, the Government withdrew the special VAT incentive it had put in place during the recession and returned the rate to 13.5 per cent.

That budgetary decision did not go down well with the industry. In addition, confederation chairman Ruth Andrews and chief executive Eoghan O’Mara expressed concern about the impact legislation dealing with self-catering accommodation might have on its members through new regulations and added costs.


The Government, the confederation declared, should now take the lead in ‘restoring tourism’s competitiveness’. That kind of learned helplessness from an industry on its knees a decade ago because of high charges is disquieting. It may, however, represent a call for reinstatement of the VAT concession. The industry also complained about inadequate promotional funding when, for the first time in seven years, a global campaign is currently under way with a budget of €45m.

It is true that a cloud hangs over the tourism sector because of Brexit uncertainty. Growth may fall back to 3 per cent this year, with UK visitors particularly affected. Such a performance would, however, represent solid overall progress. Rather than criticise the Government, the industry should concentrate on giving visitors value for money.