Fáilte Ireland: Supporting Ireland’s Tourism & Hospitality Businesses
Martina Bromley, Head of Enterprise & Hospitality Development speaks to Hotel & Restaurant Times about Fáilte Ireland’s new COVID-19 Business Support Hub and rebuilding the tourism and hospitality industry
We are in unchartered waters and to say that these are challenging times for the Irish tourism industry would be an understatement. “The tourism and hospitality industry essentially collapsed overnight,” says Martina Bromley, Head of Enterprise and Hospitality Development at Fáilte Ireland. “As the National Tourism Development Authority, we immediately stepped in to provide the guidance and supports urgently needed by tourism and hospitality businesses across the country. We are standing side-by-side with the industry and are fully aware of the huge challenges and issues employers and their employees are facing on the ground. Having worked in the tourism industry for over fifteen years, this is the most important work of my career.”
Pic Shows: Martina Bromley, Head of Enterprise & Hospitality Development
As the crisis unfolded, Fáilte Ireland formed an Industry Advisory Group made up of key tourism agencies, stakeholders and sectoral bodies, along with representatives from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to monitor the situation and agree a set of practical measures to support the sector. The first step was to refund accommodation registration charges, trade show participation fees and a range of other promotional fees and charges for the remainder of 2020 to deliver almost €3million back to Irish tourism businesses.
New Online Support Hub A Fáilte Ireland Business Supports Taskforce, led out by the Sector Development Directorate under new Director Jenny De Saulles with input from across the organisation, was established to focus solely on supporting the tourism industry. In response to business’ immediate needs, an online COVID-19 Business Support Hub was created on www.failteireland.ie to provide up to date information, expert advice and guidance on areas such as cash flow and HR to help tourism and hospitality businesses navigate the crisis. The support hub has already had over 47,000 visitors and the practical webinars have been viewed 11,000 times, with positive feedback from the industry. Martina says the COVID-19 Business Support Hub will continue to be updated with new advice and supports as the crisis evolves.
“The situation is changing by the day and we are continuing to speak to tourism businesses regularly about the challenges they are facing so that we can continue to provide practical and relevant supports.” says Martina. “Our COVID-19 Business Support Hub houses our suite of free supports, including practical webinars and FAQs on topics from insurance to managing business relationships and safeguarding future revenues, and new supports will be added to the hub to meet the urgent needs of businesses as we move through the crisis”.
Supporting Workplace Wellbeing The impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on the mental health and wellbeing of employees was identified by tourism and hospitality businesses as an area of significant concern. In response, Fáilte Ireland recently added employee wellbeing supports to the COVID-19 Business Support Hub. These free supports include the ‘I Am Here: Rapid Response service in partnership with PulseLearning, a programme of mental health learning within the workplace, and an ‘Employee Assistance programme’ in partnership with Inspire Workplaces, which provides free counselling services as well as advice on financial concerns and legal issues for business owners and employees across the industry.
“It is hugely important that we look after our mental health in these unprecedented times” says Martina. “Tourism business owners and those working in the industry face deep uncertainty about the future of their businesses and jobs. The anxiety and worry that COVID-19 is causing is immense. Our new Employee Wellbeing Supports aim to help those in the tourism industry through this difficult time, on both a professional and personal level.”
Government Supports Through the online COVID-19 Business Support Hub, Fáilte Ireland is also providing advice and guidance on accessing Government Supports and, in particular, is encouraging tourism and hospitality businesses to avail of the Government’s Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme. “The ultimate focus of the Government’s Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme is to ensure employment retention so that staff can be kept on the books and not laid off. This is important so that tourism businesses will be best placed to return to normality and recover as quickly as possible. To answer questions and help businesses access payments, we have created a quick guide and FAQs on the scheme” says Martina.
Planning for Recovery And, while it’s important to deal with the here-and-now, Martina points out that we must also importantly look at rebuilding the tourism industry and the vital contributions it makes to Irish society. “We are now looking at the next phase of our response to this crisis which is recovery,” says Martina. “Fáilte Ireland is working with Ministers Ross and Griffin, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport officials, Tourism Ireland and sectoral bodies to develop a roadmap to help the industry as we move from survival into the re-opening phase.” “Businesses will need a strong recovery plan and huge commitment to jump start business after what has to be the biggest challenge the tourism and hospitality industry has ever faced. We’re working on a range of business supports that will look at businesses by sector and address the areas they need to look at now in terms of a phased return to business.
These supports will critically focus on finance and access to the right financial supports in order to re-open but will also look at operations and what elements of businesses may need to change in light of Covid-19. For example, if social distancing remains, what do businesses need to do to ensure the safety of the consumer?”