Last week’s announcement that current restrictions on people and businesses will continue until May 5th means that Ireland’s tourism industry will remain in deep cold storage. And even after May 5th, or whatever revised date may be chosen, it is clear that any relaxation of restrictions will be staggered and Ireland’s tourism businesses – hotels, attractions, B&Bs, tour operators, event organisers, restaurants, venues, vintners and the many others – are likely to be down the list for Government approval as to a greater or lesser extent they depend on the free and unfettered movement of people.
Either way, with 75% of Ireland’s tourism economy based on international visitation, and little if any expected in 2020, the rest of this calendar year is set to be desperately fallow.
A public health issue first and foremost, Covid-19 presents shattering economic challenges and Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry – the country’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer – has been hit quickest and hardest.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), representing the leading tourism stakeholders across the public and private sectors, is part of a Covid-19 emergency tourism taskforce that, along with Department officials and tourism state agency CEOs, met for the 4th time by video conference earlier this week, a meeting chaired by Ministers Ross and Griffin.
One item for discussion was a Tourism Recovery Taskforce, and ITIC welcomes such an initiative and will play its part in full. Although difficult to think beyond the current devastation that is affecting tourism it is appropriate that we look forward and plan for the future. ITIC is of the view a high-level tri-partite taskforce of industry, Department and Agencies will be needed as the vehicle and mechanism to relaunch Irish tourism and provide jobs, economic growth, and exchequer returns.
A €3.52 billion wallop for Ireland’s tourism industry
ITIC has made the first, and to date only, estimate of the cost of Covid-19 to Irish tourism in terms of international visitation. Based on 2019 CSO data – when overseas tourist expenditure in Ireland (excluding air and sea fares) amounted to €5.1 billion – and using the assumptions that Q1 has a -60% impact (March wiped out and no Saint Patrick’s Festival), Q2 sees a -85% impact (when no business of any note happens), and then slow recovery occurs in Q3 (-70%) and Q4 (-50%), the tourism economy for 2020 could amount to as little as €1.58 billion, a Covid-19 cost to Irish tourism of €3.52 billion. Even this may be optimistic as the Covid-19 crisis rages.
Of course the domestic tourism market should respond quicker and there is an onus on industry and Fáilte Ireland to stimulate demand within the Irish market-place as soon as appropriate however any bounce in domestic tourism can never get close to compensating for the devastating fall in overseas earnings.