Yesterday’s much-anticipated Budget 2022 announcement has been given a largely positive welcome by the tourism sector in Ireland.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, welcomed the additional funding of €39m allocated to the representative body.
He said the funds “demonstrate the Government’s continued commitment to Irish tourism in these extraordinary times.
“As we restart tourism from overseas, this additional funding will allow Tourism Ireland to ‘put our best foot forward’ and roll out a really strong programme of promotions throughout 2022.”
Mr Gibbons reiterated that there is “significant pent-up demand” among travellers to return to the island of Ireland as soon as possible.
“However,” he added, “we also know that there will be significant competition in the marketplace; every destination across the globe has experienced the impact of COVID-19 and will be seeking its share of the recovery.
“This additional investment will allow us to upweight our new campaigns in our international markets, punch through the noise and convert ‘lookers’ to ‘bookers’.”
The budget also included a €90m aviation aid package to help restore the sector after two years of enormous difficulty and relative inactivity.
The announcement was greeted positively by Ireland’s major airports.
Dalton Philips, CEO at daa (which manages Dublin and Cork airports) said: “Our business at Dublin and Cork Airports has been significantly hit by the fall in the passenger numbers over the past two years, as has the entire aviation ecosystem including our airline partners.
“We obviously welcome the measures announced in today’s budget and look forward to rebuilding our long and short haul networks out of Dublin and Cork Airports on the strength of these supports.”
Vincent Harrison, Managing Director at Dublin Airport, said the “package of supports will help us to further improve upon our already highly competitive airport charges and incentives.”
Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport, said “We have already had some really positive announcements made by our airline customers in recent weeks and we are confident of even more as a result of these Government supports.”
They both pointed to an increase in traffic since the reopening of international borders in July, and expressed confidence in the growing demand for travel in and out of both airports.
Mary Considine, CEO of the Shannon Group, also expressed satisfaction with the package of support measures, but acknowledged that “it will take many years for aviation to recover to pre-pandemic levels and we appreciate this funding, and indeed other Government supports Shannon Group has received since the onset of the pandemic.
“We look forward to hearing the detail of the allocation for Shannon Airport in due course.”
The hospitality sector also welcomed the aid packages announced in the budget, but also sounded a note of caution about the immediate future.
The chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), Tim Fenn, said the extension of employment supports and the rates waiver scheme are a welcome recognition of the challenges still being faced by tourism and hospitality businesses.
But expressed serious concerns about the so-called December ‘cliff edge’ in the EWSS employment support scheme, whereby businesses that experienced a seasonal Christmas uplift would be excluded from further support in the bleak months of January to April. He urged the Government to provide a sector specific exemption for hospitality businesses.
The Coach Tourism and Transport Council (CTTC), Ireland’s largest representative body for coach touring companies and private bus operators, was happy to see the allocation of €50 million in Business Continuity Scheme funding support for the tourism sector with €39 million allocated for marketing Ireland abroad.
It also welcomed the announcement that the EWSS has been extended until April of 2022 and the hospitality VAT rate will be retained at 9% until the end of August 2022.
Chairman of the CTTC John Halpenny said: “It is a relief to learn that the Government acknowledges the strategic importance of the private coach sector and has taken on board the recommendations outlined in our pre-Budget submission.
“The industry has suffered enormously over the last eighteen months and while further challenges lie ahead, the support announced today will come as some comfort to many.
“The resumption of the Business Continuity Scheme funding is welcome news but an allocation must be ring-fenced specifically for coach tourism to acknowledge the crucial role our members play in transporting international visitors across the regions and to the most peripheral parts of this island.
“Without their direct involvement in tourism many regional retailers, hospitality outlets, visitor centres and jobs would be in jeopardy.”