THE exclusion of pensioners from a new tourism stimulus scheme for the off-peak season has been described as “a real slap in the face” by the Shannon-based President of Active Retirement Ireland.
Kay Murphy told The Champion the terms of the new Stay and Spend scheme, which provides a tax rebate on certain tourism products and services, “victimised” those on State pensions.
The initiative, which allows people to claim 20% back on up to €625 spent between October and April of next year, excludes anyone who does not pay tax.
“I’m very disappointed about this, so many of our members are dependent solely on the State pension,” Mrs Murphy said. “Because they don’t pay tax any more, they’re not eligible for the scheme.” Mrs Murphy noted that the value of Active Retirement members to the tourism sector had been valued last year at €13.5m and that their exclusion from the scheme made no sense.
“At this stage, those of us over 65 have been in lockdown and isolation for so long, that we deserve a perk,” she said. “We are ready to get out and about, within reason.”
“We won’t lie down under this,” she added. “We are already lobbying government and we’ll take this as far as we can. The whole thing writes us off and puts us in a box. We are the backbone of tourism in the off-peak and off-season times and the fact that there’s nothing for us in this scheme is just not acceptable.”
Mrs Murphy added that her own preference would have been for a voucher system for use in hospitality and tourism businesses, and questioned why the government had not gone down that route. After the launch of the scheme Tánaiste Leo Varadkar explained that a voucher scheme would not work, saying that if they were to be allocated according to peoples’ PPS numbers the government could run the risk of giving vouchers to those who do not live here any more.
Meanwhile, around 900,000 workers, outside the tax net, will not be able to avail of the Stay and Spend scheme.