On the 1 st February, Fáilte Ireland shared its plans to support the survival and recovery of the tourism sector at a special virtual event entitled ‘Survive to Thrive’ which was watched by over five thousand members of the tourism industry. Paul Kelly, CEO talks to us about the National Tourism Development Authority’s priorities for 2021 including new business supports, domestic marketing, urban outdoor investment and grant schemes.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on tourism. The sector’s revenue has declined by a massive €6billion and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. As we move into what will undoubtedly be another very challenging year, Fáilte Ireland’s focus is on supporting resilience and survival in the short term and the recovery of the sector in the long-term” explains Paul.
In 2021, Fáilte Ireland will continue to offer expert advice and guidance to support the industry during the COVID-19 crisis. “We will be rolling out new employee, business and sector supports on areas such as strategy and leadership, finance and cost efficiency, food and beverage innovation and service excellence to drive performance and help the industry navigate the challenges they are facing” says Paul. “I’d encourage businesses to continue visiting our online COVID-19 Business Support Hub on www.failteireland.ie for the latest supports.”
As the vaccine rollout gets underway, Fáilte Ireland is hopeful that some kind of domestic tourism activity can start again this summer. “Domestic tourism will be the first to return and we plan to invest significantly in domestic marketing to drive domestic tourism when the country re-opens. Our research tells us that the ‘Keep Discovering’ campaign we launched prior to the COVID-19 pandemic resonates even more strongly with people now and we will be rolling the campaign out at both a national and county level.”
To prepare for the return of tourism, Fáilte Ireland has developed a new digital transformation programme. “Online planning and booking has become even more important. We will be working with the industry to build improved websites and online booking capability.”
Fáilte Ireland will also be investing in urban areas. “We are launching two new funding schemes in collaboration with our local authority partners to enhance urban areas and make them more appealing to visitors” says Paul, “the Outdoor Dining Grant Scheme which will improve thequality of outdoor dining spaces and offer reassurance around safety and comfort, and the Urban Animation Grant Scheme to animate cities and towns with innovative lighting and art installations. We’re also continuing to implement projects to boost the attractiveness and tourism appeal of 31 towns nationwide through our Destination Towns Scheme which launched in 2019”.
At the virtual industry event, Fáilte Ireland announced details of a new €55million Tourism Business Continuity Scheme. The allocation was secured by Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport, Gaeltacht and Media, Catherine Martin T.D. in Budget 2021 and Fáilte Ireland is responsible for developing and administering the scheme. “The Tourism Business Continuity Scheme will support tourism businesses that were not eligible for the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) payment or previous Fáilte Ireland continuity grant schemes with direct financial assistance to offset fixed costs and help them to continue operating through 2021” says Paul. “The first phase of the scheme opens for applications (from the 11th February to 8th March) to businesses including outdoor activity providers, visitor attractions not eligible for CRSS, caravan and camping providers registered with Fáilte Ireland and cruise hire companies.” Eligibility criteria and further information on the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme can be found on www.failteireland.ie.
As the tourism sector continues to face real challenges as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, Paul believes that while there is no doubt 2021 will be another tough year, there are however reasons to be hopeful. “Although not quite like this crisis, tourism has weathered many previous crises and each time we have come back stronger – whether it was foot and mouth or the financial crisis. The deeper the crisis, the stronger the recovery, and the higher the post-crisis peak. COVID-19 undoubtedly dwarfs previous crises, but I firmly believe that working together, once it is safe to do so again, we can deliver a recovery of a scale befitting the scale of this crisis.” For more information on Fáilte Ireland’s 2021 plans and priorities, visit www.failteireland.ie