Hotel and guesthouse owners have welcomed proposals for the development of sector-specific responses for tourism and hospitality and other sectors that are contained in the draft government framework document prepared by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Over the past few weeks, the industry has been decimated due to the COVID-19 crisis with over 85% of hotels closed and the majority of the 260,000 employees laid off or on short-time. Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, President of the Irish Hotels Federation, said that tourism and hospitality have been a key driver of job growth over the last decade, and with the right supports, could play a significant role again in rebuilding the Irish economy.

“Tourism supports 11% of total employment nationally, 70% of these jobs are outside of Dublin which highlights the regional contribution of tourism and its vital role in spreading employment opportunities and prosperity across the entire country. It is essential that our industry remains to the fore of the national economic agenda.

Welcoming the increases to the wage subsidy scheme that were announced separately today by Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe TD, Ms Fitzgerald Kane said that while all supports are welcome, further measures are urgently required to protect tourism livelihoods and address the enormous challenges faced by the sector.

Hoteliers are calling for a range of measures that will allow businesses to plan now for their recovery. These include:

1.      Local Authority rates and water charges: to be waived for a minimum period of 12 months.

2.      Cash flow & finance: measures to assist with cash flow for businesses facing short term problems, including interest free loans and a minimum 12-month deferment on Senior debt (both Capital and Interest).

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3.      Taxation: tourism VAT rates to be reduced to zero for a minimum of 12 months and until the industry has recovered, then restored to 9% on a permanent basis. Employer’s PRSI to be reduced to 0.5% for a minimum of 12 months and until the industry has recovered.

4.      Government grants: business interruption grants to help businesses survive and reopen.

5.      Seasonal employees: Supports for seasonal workers in tourism who do not currently qualify for Covid-19 related payments.

 The IHF President noted the willingness of hotels to play their part in providing assistance to essential services where required by the HSE and other Government departments.  She said that mitigating the impact of Covid-19 must go hand in hand with ensuring that Irish people have a viable economy to return to in the coming months. “The health and wellbeing of all citizens is intertwined with the economy, and people will need livelihoods after the crisis is over.” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald Kane added: “While most tourism and hospitality businesses are closed, they are working to secure the necessary funds to survive and restart.   That process involves making predictions around the period of closure and the length of time it will take for various categories of revenue to recover. Government controlled costs such as local authority rates, VAT and employer’s PRSI are having an enormously negative impact on viability scenarios during the recovery period. We recognise that the Government is being forced to increase the level of national debt to fund the health crisis and must protect the exchequer to fund ongoing services. However, these urgent measures are required now to help our industry recover and play its part in ensuring that the Irish economy will be strong enough to service post COVID-19 national debt.”