*Anthony McCarthy & Ronán Ganter.
The Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland (WCDAI) is running a national Drive to Survive campaign which hopes to open meaningful dialogue with the government following an exclusion from the July tourism stimulus package which could decimate the chauffeur industry as a whole.
On Friday July 24th, the association and those effected within the tourism and chauffeur industry took part in a drive from Killarney to Donegal in an act of solidarity, highlighting a siege of turbulent issues which pervade and could entirely displace the chauffeur industry due to Covid-19.
Public Relations Officer Gerry Keane, originally an Ennis man, talks to The Clare Echo about how no structured supports have been put in place for the industry, the impact that the loss of chauffeurs will have on the tourism industry as well as the necessity for meaningful dialogue to be established with government officials in a bid to rescue what for many companies and drivers has become irreparable damage.
The WCDAI is calling on the government to commit to an extension of the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment. For most drivers and like much of the country, this provided a temporary means of subsistence throughout the lockdown.
Gerry informs that a number of drivers who had not started their working season by March were unable to avail of the payment of the COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payment. Many of these businesses have now been wiped. In addition, Gerry feels that €350, although helpful, will not hold up against a barrage of insurance and loan costs that now saturate those within the chauffeur industry.
Payment breaks must persist for the chauffeur industry, Gerry insists, with the entire industry at a standstill until at least the 2021 tourism season. Licensing and depreciation is perhaps one of the hardest hitting perforations in the now almost deflated wheels of the industry. Gerry and the WCDAI are demanding cost neutral proposals of revaluating the value of a limo license which could be carried forward to next year, particularly for those who have already paid this year and have little to no business due to Covid-19.
The underlying message of the Drive to Survive campaign is that the tourism industry and the chauffeur industry are all part of one big wheel, in Gerry’s opinion, “The Cliffs of Moher gives us a very simple run. When we were up there on Friday during our drive, they were saying that roughly the same day last year, they would have had over 8,000 visitors going into the cliffs. They were open from eight in the morning to nine at night, last Friday night, and if they reached between five and seven hundred, they would have been lucky. We were there and there wasn’t even fifty people to be seen walking around, nor a coach in site. There was nothing. We have absolutely no business. We would usually have a lot of corporate companies; we would be taking care of them over the course of the races. It’s totally gone. A lot of the businesses we saw on the way like craftspeople and craft centres, small businesses like that, they have no business. The domestic market does not support them”.
Chauffeurs have been neglected in the July Stimulus Package, Keane believed. “The government has to come back with a plan. We have letters going out to the Taoiseach and relevant ministers. We need to have a meaningful conversation with them, and some package would have to be put in place. The July package has completely neglected our industry. We hope to get in front of the NTA and discuss the cost of our licenses. We can only do this by sitting down in front of somebody to come up with solutions. We may come out with something good from that for the survival of many. Without that, we just fall through the cracks. We will be gone. There is no question about that.”