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Severe travel restrictions ‘threatening’ survival of tourism industry

Industry representatives said the outbreak of Covid-19 created the ‘perfect storm’.

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Paul Gallagher, general manager of Buswells Hotel in Dublin (Cate McCurry/PA)

Paul Gallagher, general manager of Buswells Hotel in Dublin (Cate McCurry/PA)

Paul Gallagher, general manager of Buswells Hotel in Dublin (Cate McCurry/PA)

Severe travel restrictions and social distancing are threatening the survival of many parts of the tourism industry, the Oireachtas tourism committee has heard.

Industry representatives said the outbreak of Covid-19 created the “perfect storm”, leaving a major gap in Ireland’s economy.

Information provided to the committee said that Ireland depends on overseas tourism for 75% of its revenue, and as the number of international visitors plummet, many businesses are struggling to survive.

Tourism in Ireland provided nine billion euro to the economy last year and supported 260,000 jobs, the committee was told, and it is predicted that this year it will provide less than three billon euro, and 180,000 jobs are either already lost or vulnerable.

Tourism Recovery Taskforce chairman Ruth Andrews said: “Tourism is the most important indigenous labour-intensive sector in Ireland and generates very substantial export earnings and tax revenues.

“It is woven into the fabric of Irish culture and social life and is of critical importance to regional economies in particular.

“Because tourism is so integrated into the economy and so diverse and overwhelmingly made up of SMEs, it has suffered from a lack of visibility and recognition as an internationally traded service.

“Covid has created a perfect storm for tourism.

“The requirement to trade in an environment requiring social distancing and limited gatherings, together with the fact that travel restrictions have meant that overseas tourism has virtually disappeared, is threatening the survival of a large part of the tourism ecosystem in Ireland.”

The severe travel restrictions mean very few international travellers have visited Ireland since March.

We are in a very precarious place, many businesses will find it very difficult to survivePaul Gallagher, Buswells Hotel

The Government said it will soon make a decision on its plans to implement the EU traffic light system to enable travel across the EU.

Ireland has adopted a safe “green list” which includes countries to which people can travel without having to restrict their movements for 14 days on their return home.

However, there are no countries currently on the list.

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Ms Andrews added: “I cannot stress how important it will be for the recovery of the sector that we find a way to get overseas tourists back into Ireland.

“We must do so in a safe manner, of course, and the recent adoption of the traffic light system in the EU is an important first step in this regard.”

Sean Connick, managing director of the Dunbrody Visitor Experience in New Ross, said restrictions are having a wide impact, particularly on trade in restaurants and coffee shops.

He also said that Government funding has been vital in ensuring the survival of tourism over the last few months.

“We are hopeful that next year we are looking at continued investment through Failte Ireland and the rural regeneration fund,” he added.

Paul Gallagher, general manager of Buswells Hotel in Dublin, said the tourism industry is in a “very precarious place”.

He said: “We are in a different world altogether – there’s no footfall in Dublin and the tourism sector is in lockdown.

“We are in a very precarious place, many businesses will find it very difficult to survive and it will prove to be an enormous issue as we come to the end of the year.

“As companies have to complete their audit accounts, the undertaking they will have in order to continue to trade will be extraordinarily difficult because hotels are unable to take on new debt based on their performance.”

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