Leitrim hoteliers urge government to address tourism crisis

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

Local hoteliers seek retention of 9% VAT rate

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Hotel and guesthouse owners in Leitrim and across the country are calling on the Government to introduce measures that will tackle the catastrophic crisis facing many businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Welcoming the positive trend in cases over the past two weeks, Michael Yates, chairperson of the Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon branch of the Irish Hotelier's Federation (IHF), acknowledged the great progress being made by the Government, the Chief Medical Officer, health professionals and society in general in suppressing the disease.
He said that it was now time to address the need for people to have livelihoods after the pandemic.
Mr Yates called on the Government to urgently seek assistance from the proposed EU Recovery Fund being set up to combat the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is forecast to be the worst in a century throughout Europe.
He said a package of specific supports is required that recognises the unique challenges facing Ireland’s largest indigenous industry.
“The June Bank Holiday traditionally marks the start of the holiday season, yet thousands of tourism businesses across the country remain closed due to the pandemic, including 90% of hotels, and the majority of the industry’s 260,000 employees are laid off,” he pointed out.
Adding greater urgency to the call for intervention is the fact that 70% of tourism jobs are based outside Dublin, the hotel spokesperson noted this week.
“Here in Leitrim tourism supported 1,100 jobs and generated €36m in local revenues before this crisis. Further delays in providing support measures could have devastating implications, particularly for rural Ireland, that may take decades to recover,” noted Mr Yates.
“While the various business and employment supports that have been introduced already are very welcome, they do not go far enough. Some industries, like tourism, have been far more severely affected and face a more challenging road to recovery and this is not being adequately recognised. Tourism proved itself to be a powerful engine for economic growth following the last recession, creating some 90,000 new jobs. With the right supports now, it can be again but time is of the essence.”
Mr Yates added: “The tourism and hospitality sector was asked to close down in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was the right decision and the health and safety of staff and guests will always be our main priority. However, there must be compensation for those businesses that have been devastated for the common good.
“When hotels reopen in July, they will be reliant on the domestic market for business. While every guest will be very welcome, the reality is that home grown tourism will not recoup the significant financial loss to the economy of overseas tourism. In the meantime, specific supports are needed to safeguard an industry that can play a vital role in the country’s economic recovery and rural Ireland in particular.”

Four Urgent Measures
The IHF is calling on the Government to urgently implement the following measures:
1. Measures to directly help businesses including: a direct business grant scheme; 0% interest on Government guaranteed finance; a Government supported scheme for deferral of capital and interest payments for a period of one year and the re-assessment of the SBCI loan system to ensure appropriate products are available for tourism and hospitality.
2. Reduction in tourism VAT on a permanent basis to assist recovery and secure a viable and sustainable future for tourism.
3. The Covid–19 Wage Subsidy Scheme should be continued until the impact of physical distancing and mass gathering restrictions has abated.
4. The current three-month waiver period should be extended for tourism businesses to coincide with business interruption due to Covid-19 and for a minimum of 12 months. After that, payment of local authority rates should be based on reduced levels of activity due to the Covid-19 crisis.