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*Dermot Kelly, co-owner of Shannon Springs Hotel. Photo by John Mangan

Clare hoteliers are calling for urgent Government support for the tourism sector as hotel bookings plummet due to Level 3 COVID-19 restrictions.

A new survey, from the Industry Hotels Federation (IHF), has revealed the brunt of additional Government restrictions, resulting in occupancy rates of 21 per cent for October and 11 per cent for November in the Mid-West. Due to a decline of 84 per cent in overseas visitors noted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in August 2020; 8,800 tourism (75%) jobs are at risk across Clare and nearly 36,000 jobs at risk across the wider region.

Tourism plays a vital economic role across Clare and the wider region. Prior to COVID-19, Clare’s tourism and hospitality industry supported 12,000 jobs and generated €266 million in revenue annually for the local economy.

Clare Hoteliers have outlined a number of urgent Government measures required to safeguard Irish tourism as part of this year’s Budget. Firstly, Clare Hoteliers are calling on the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) rates of support to be increased to the previous levels of €350/€410 per week for businesses that can demonstrate a 50% reduction in turnover for a 12 month period. Secondly, there are calls for the tourism Vat to be reduced to 9%, ‘to assist recovery and secure a viable and sustainable future for tourism.’ VAT on Irish Hotels is currently the second highest in Europe and higher than 30 European Countries.

Additional liquidity measures are also sought to help fund hotels during the coming months as a result of the cash flow lost out due to COVID-19 restrictions, including extension of the moratorium on bank term loans from 6 months to 12 months. Finally, hoteliers are calling on a local authority rate waiver to be extended for tourism businesses to coincide with COVID-19 interruption and for a minimum of 12 months. Hoteliers feel that payment of local authority rates should be based on reduced levels of activity due to the crisis and until the industry has recovered.

Calls for additional supports to be provided to Shannon Airport have been made in light of cuts from several major airlines and the underlying threat of many that are looking to follow suit.

Dermot Kelly, Chair of the IHF Shannon Branch expressed his worry with the present situation at Shannon Airport. “We are hugely concerned about the recent decision by United Airlines and Delta not to resume flights from Shannon International Airport in 2021 and the risk that Aer Lingus will move aircraft serving UK and US routes to other airport hubs. This is further compounded by Ryanair’s threat to close their Shannon base. If these hubs are closed this will have a detrimental impact on the West and Mid-West regions for future growth of regional Ireland.”

“We must focus on ways to restore international travel safely as soon as possible – a market that equates to 70% of our market base annually. In immediate term, this will require an urgent alignment of our national travel policy with the framework being adopted by the EU. This must be backed up by an effective testing and tracking regime to facilitate safe travel and protect the health and livelihoods of all,” the co-owner of Shannon Springs Hotel added.

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