Tourism group calls for more State sup­port

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS NEWS - MARK PAUL

The main lob­by­ing group rep­re­sent­ing the tourism in­dus­try has ac­cused the Gov­ern­ment of not “match­ing the in­dus­try’s am­bi­tions” and called on the State to do more to sup­port the sec­tor.

The Ir­ish Tourism In­dus­try Con­fed­er­a­tion (ITIC), the in­dus­try’s um­brella group, warned that “sus­tain­ing suc­cess in the Ir­ish tourism sec­tor in 2019 will be a chal­lenge” due to the risks from Brexit, VAT rate hikes and higher costs.

The year just gone was a record one for Ir­ish tourism, with €6.9 bil­lion earned from over­seas tourism, while the sec­tor now em­ploys about 270,000 peo­ple.

How­ever, Mau­rice Pratt, ITIC’s chair­man and a for­mer C&C and Quinnsworth ex­ec­u­tive, said its growth would be main­tained “only if the right strate­gies and in­vest­ment poli­cies are pur­sued”.

“The Gov­ern­ment must match the in­dus­try’s am­bi­tions for the sec­tor.

“Fund­ing for the sec­tor has only now barely re­turned to 2008 lev­els and it is vi­tal that com­pet­i­tive­ness is sup­ported,” he said.

“Tourism is the only sec­tor that can pro­vide proper long-term re­gional bal­ance and de­liver jobs and eco­nomic growth to all parts of the coun­try.”

ITIC pre­dicted that the value of the sec­tor next year could grow by up to 8 per cent, which would be in line with a strat­egy to 2025 pro­duced by the con­fed­er­a­tion last March. It warned, how­ever, that its growth could be threat­ened by Brexit and it lamented that a “key en­abling fac­tor” of the in­dus­try’s suc­cess – its spe­cial 9 per cent VAT rate, which was raised in the Bud­get to 13.5 per cent – had been re­moved.

“The de­ci­sion by the Gov­ern­ment to in­crease tourism VAT rate by 50 per cent on Jan­uary 1st im­poses a €466 mil­lion tax on the sec­tor next year. This is at the worst pos­si­ble time with Brexit loom­ing and tourism’s com­pet­i­tive­ness di­min­ished. ITIC re­peats its call for this VAT hike to be de­ferred,” said the con­fed­er­a­tion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Eoghan O’Mara Walsh.

ITIC has es­ti­mated that a so-called hard Brexit could cost Ir­ish tourism €390 mil­lion “in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math”.

In its re­view of the year, the con­fed­er­a­tion high­lighted that spend by over­seas tourists to Ire­land was up by 7 per cent in 2018, with a fur­ther 25,000 jobs cre­ated.

It es­ti­mated that the sec­tor earned about €2.1 bil­lion for the ex­che­quer in di­rect taxes.

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