The fast-moving Covid-19 situation shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Although the infection rate in Ireland has remained low and stable for some time there is caution in relation to fully opening up the economy. This affects the Irish tourism sector more than anywhere else, an industry that in the pre-pandemic era was worth €9.3 billion annually to the Irish economy and employed 265,000 people. Now, in this annus horribilis, international arrivals have all but ceased, the domestic market is tentatively back but only with strict social distancing rules in place, and tourism enterprises – of all sizes and in all parts of the country – are desperately nervous of what the future holds.
The new Government – a coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens – is set to publish its July stimulus package soon which aims to kick-start the economy. It is of critical importance that the Irish tourism and hospitality sector – the country’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer – is fully supported by Government and that vulnerable but viable businesses see a path out of this crisis.
As well as being a public health crisis, it is apparent to all that Covid-19 has had a devastating economic impact and Irish tourism businesses have been hit quickest and hardest. Closed by Government decree for four months and now only partially open with international arrivals all but non existent, the sector is facing an existential crisis.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), representing the leading tourism stakeholders across the public and private sectors, recently published its Tourism Industry Revival Plan which sets out a roadmap for recovery. The plan argues that the July stimulus package must include a €1.5 billion suite of financial support packages for tourism businesses as well as an extension of the wage subsidy scheme through to Q2 in 2021.