The Tullamore DEW Visitor Centre, a top attraction in Offaly
Hotels and guesthouses in Laois-Offaly are seeking the urgent support of local TDs to help save Irish tourism and secure the livelihoods of thousands of people employed across the country. Dara Cruise, Chair, Midlands Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation states: “Safeguarding public health is an absolute priority for us, and this must go hand-in-hand with ensuring we have a viable economy to return to after the crisis. The health and wellbeing of our people is intertwined with the economy.
“People will need livelihoods when this is all over – including the 260,000 people across the country who, up until recently, were employed in tourism and hospitality. This represents 11% of total employment nationally. It is also important to note that 70% of these jobs are outside of Dublin which highlights the regional contribution of tourism. Over 100,000 have already been laid off and it is deeply regrettable that many more will follow in the coming days.
“Tourism makes a vital economic contribution to our local economy here in Laois-Offaly and, up until last week, it supported 4,400 jobs and generated €66 million in local tourism revenues annually. Within a short number of weeks, we have seen revenues plummet by up to 100% across the sector. Tourism businesses have now closed with thousands of people being laid off on a daily basis across the country. We must do everything within our power to ensure that these closures are temporary.
“The challenges we now face are existential and far greater than anything we went through during the financial crisis. We require extraordinary measures and political leadership right now to ensure these closures and layoffs are temporary. That is why the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has called on the Government to act extremely quickly to ensure that large parts of our economy, including tourism, are not obliterated by the current crisis.
“When we look across the water to the UK, we see a range of seriously impressive measures to save jobs and the economy, such as the UK Government’s decisive commitment yesterday to pay up to 80% of the salary of employees if businesses keep them on their payroll as the economy crashes. Here in Ireland, we need our own “great national effort to protect jobs” along similar lines.
“It is extremely regrettable that the response so far by Government has been inadequate and this is causing alarm across our sector given the lessons learnt from the financial crisis and urgency required to minimise long-term damage to vulnerable sectors of the economy.
“Last week, for example, the Government moved to defer commercial rates for businesses impacted by the crisis. Such a deferment is futile for tourism businesses that have no revenue as it just means they are being asked to accumulate the liability. It fails to tackle the underlying problem and will do little to get our people in Irish tourism back to work as part of rebuilding Ireland. For those businesses most affected, including those that have closed, these Local Authority rates must be waived until the crisis is over.
“Cash flow in particular is the killer of businesses in crises like this, and we have called on the Government to implement measures that will assist with cash flow now as well as reducing the rates of tourism VAT and employer’s PRSI to zero for the duration of the crisis. In addition to our call for local authority rates to be waived, we are seeking direct business supports, including finance and marketing assistance.”
Urgent measures required now:
“We now expect societal and business interruption to last far longer than originally anticipated, and this significantly changes the context and scale of Government intervention required. Nothing short of a drastic intervention will secure the future of Irish tourism.”
Hoteliers in Laois-Offaly are calling for urgent Government action on the following issues to protect the long-term viability of the 260,000 Irish tourism jobs and the wider economy:
Employees: Government should commit to paying 80% of the salary of workers if businesses keep them on their payroll. Similar to mortgage deferments, provide grants for employees who are renting.
Cashflow / Finance: measures to assist with cashflow for businesses facing short term problems, including:
Interest free loans with deferred capital payment structures
Government supported and targeted bank support initiatives
12-month payment deferment on Senior debt (Capital and Interest)
Government grants: business interruption grants to help businesses reopen and interest-free Capex grants that are repayable over time
Local Authority rates and water charges: to be waived for the duration of business interruption and initial recovery period due to Covid-19.
Taxation: tourism VAT rates and employer’s PRSI to be reduced to zero until the industry has recovered.
Insurance: grants to cover business’s public liability and property insurance for the duration of the crisis and for Government to require the insurance industry to be more flexible with charges in relation to businesses that are closed.
“We are all in this together and local tourism businesses, including hotels and guesthouses, are determined to get through this crisis and get the 260,000 people back to work in tourism. There is only so much we, as individual businesses, can do in the face of such an overwhelming crisis that threatens to obliterate Irish tourism.
“That is why, on behalf of all our members and local tourism businesses, we urging all TDs in Laois-Offaly to support our call for decisive and exceptional measures at this time of national crisis,” concluded Mr Cruise.