Hoteliers make urgent appeal to government to save Waterford tourism sector
Hotel and guesthouse owners in Waterford and across the country are calling on Paschal Donohue TD, Minister for Finance, and the Government to introduce a series of urgent measures that are required to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, including the tourism and hospitality industry.
Over the past few weeks, the industry has been decimated with over 85% of hotels closed nationally and the majority of the 260,000 employees laid off or on short-time. Colm Neville, Chair of the South East branch of the Irish Hotels Federation stated that hoteliers appreciated that the country is experiencing the greatest health crisis in living memory and that significant resources are being committed to address the overriding issue of public health. However, he warned: “every day’s delay in implementing the measures, results in greater risks to our tourism and hospitality industry.
Mr Neville noted the willingness of hotels to play their part in providing assistance to essential services where required by the HSE and other Government departments. He 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. Tourism supports 11% of total employment nationally. It is important to note that 70% of these jobs are outside of Dublin which highlights its vital role in spreading employment opportunities and prosperity across the entire country. Here in Waterford tourism supported 6,300 jobs and generated €138m in local revenues before this crisis,” he said.
“Irish tourism has been a key driver of job growth over the last decade, and it is essential that our industry remains to the fore of the national economic agenda, including in negotiations on the Framework for Government. Whilst discussions are ongoing, further measures are now urgently required to protect tourism livelihoods and address the enormous challenges we face. These challenges are existential for many tourism businesses and of a significantly greater scale than anything experienced during the last financial crisis.
Waterford 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).
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.
Mr Neville added: “At present most of our industry nationally is closed. We are seeking an urgent response to ensure that hotel and guesthouse properties are preserved and ready to scale up when the Covid-19 related restrictions are lifted. Tourism and hospitality businesses are now 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.”