Ireland’s tourism economy has changed profoundly in the space of only a couple of short weeks. Covid-19, since the first case in Ireland on February 29th, has had – and continues to have – a catastrophic impact on Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry. Each day seems to bring a new and more worrying development.
First and foremost a public health issue, Covid-19 undoubtedly poses massive economic and business implications and Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry is in the front line. With the cessation of flights between US and Europe including Ireland, the closure of tourism sites, the cancellation of St Patrick’s Festival, and the ban on gatherings of 100 people indoors or 500 people outdoors, the impact on Irish tourism has been devastating and immediate.
Tourism employs 265,000 people throughout the country and is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry. 68% of employment is outside of Dublin. Covid-19 has meant widespread cancellations and deferments but of far more concern is that all new bookings for the industry have dried up. Carriers, hotels and accommodation providers, restaurants, attractions, hospitality businesses, tour operators, and transport providers are facing a bleak year with an empty pipeline and order book.
The only way of minimising job losses and business closures is aggressive Government intervention to protect the industry from the ravaging effects of Covid-19.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), representing the leading tourism stakeholders across public and private sectors, is part of a tourism taskforce recently established by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport and chaired by Ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin. At these meetings ITIC has relayed the gravity of the current situation and outlined the urgent and immediate measures required if Ireland’s tourism industry is to be somewhat protected during this unprecedented challenge.