Covid-19 ITIC Bulletin: A first step!
The Irish Government’s economic response to Covid-19 with a €3.7 billion package was a welcome initiative in supporting tourism and hospitality businesses up and down the country who are wrestling with a staggering challenge. The wage subsidy measures, increased unemployment payments and better illness cover are important first steps to help confront the economic crisis that has befallen the country. A public health issue first and foremost, Covid-19 also presents shattering economic challenges and Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry – the country’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer – has been hit quickest and hardest. The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), representing the leading tourism stakeholders across the public and private sectors, set out a 3-point plan on March 15th outlining the urgent and immediate measures needed by Government to protect Ireland’s tourism businesses. ITIC is part of a Covid-19 emergency tourism taskforce that, along with Department officials and tourism state agency CEOs, met for the 3rd time earlier this week and was chaired by Ministers Ross and Griffin. Business Survival, Liquidity Measures and Demand Stimulation are the basis of ITIC’s 3 point plan and represent the only viable blueprint for Ireland’s tourism industry.
Credit must be given to Government for devising their €3.7 billion economic package with such speed and Department officials are striving hard to make sure the measures work for business. Crucially though the package is scheduled for a 12-week period and the Irish tourism economy – 75% dependent on overseas visitors – will need sector-specific support for the rest of the year with little international visitation to be realistically expected in 2020. Furthermore, additional efforts will be needed to support tourism employers as well as employees. Local authority rates remain a burning issue and these represent a significant cost for business. The current policy of a 3 month deferral is unclear and wholly inadequate to the challenge facing tourism and hospitality companies. As has happened North of the border, there must be a complete rates waiver for the remainder of 2020 if tourism businesses are to survive this crisis. ITIC welcomes Government pressure on banks and insurance companies to support business during these troubling times but much more must be done on this front to ensure financial institutions play their part in supporting industry. It is worth noting that EU State aid rules enable Member States to help companies cope with liquidity shortages. Specifically, Article 107(2)(b) TFEU enables Member States to compensate companies for the damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences, including measures in sectors such as aviation and tourism. The Irish Government must use all flexibility within EU guidelines to support Ireland’s tourism industry, a sector that proudly claimed 20,000 individual businesses prior to Covid-19.