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Extension of rates waiver recommended by tourism recovery group

MEASURES to kick-start tourism in the wake of Covid-19 have been welcomed, with Clare’s Fianna Fáil TD pledging to fight to have both the rates waiver and lower VAT rate extended.

Deputy Cathal Crowe, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on tourism, also welcomed proposals to extend the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), as well as to reform the insurance sector and revise the Stay and Spend Scheme. The measures form part of a suite of recommendations made this week by the Tourism Recovery Oversight Group.

“Although all the measures to keep the tourism sector buoyant at this time are costly to the State,” Deputy Crowe acknowledged, “it makes sense that they should continue – because simply put, the alternative is to stand back and watch the sector collapse, resulting in a huge amount of other pressures on the State’s social welfare system. In this time, we have seen the tourism sector reach a rock bottom point but – crucially – also enjoy a reasonably healthy summer season, with plenty of domestic tourism, which we need to focus on again.”

In relation to the rates waiver, Deputy Crowe told The Champion that he would be pushing the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to under-write this. “The outlook at the moment is so bleak that I can’t see how companies are in any position to pay rates bills this year, so I’m welcome the call that the waiver be extended to the end of this year,” he said. “It all depends on the cost being under-written by the department and I will be advocating that.”

The Fianna Fáil TD highlighted the importance of supporting the spin-off sectors who depend on tourism. “We also need to acknowledge that the tourism sector has a vast supply chain,” he said. “A hotel in Clare, or anywhere in Ireland, may have 100 or so on payroll but the same hotel sustains local butchers, bakers, farmers, dairy suppliers, launderettes and so on. In parts of rural Clare, tourism businesses are the only local source of income for a lot of people – so many of our teenagers and young adults start out in these businesses and fund their education through that income. We need to acknowledge that money in tourism circulates better than probably most sectors in our economy.

This week, head of the recovery oversight group, Noirín Hegarty unveiled its first report, containing a suite of measures to revive the sector.

“We believe that the existential risks to many parts of our sector have only increased since the Recovery Plan was drawn up,” she said. “Whilst it is inevitable, unfortunately, that some businesses may not come through the pandemic, a significant level of business failure will have far-reaching consequences for the recovery and the economic and social sustainability of many areas with few alternative options for employment.”

Ms Hegarty, VP of Digital Content with Lonely Planet, has strong Clare connections and was appointed in December to the oversight group. Tasked with monitoring the sector’s recovery from the pandemic, the group has also called for “clear criteria which will determine when the tourism sector can re-open, including international access and inbound tourism”.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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