Fáilte Ireland Announces €55m Business Continuity Scheme For Tourism Sector

By Dave Simpson
Fáilte Ireland Announces €55m Business Continuity Scheme For Tourism Sector

Fáilte Ireland has announced details of a new €55 million business continuity scheme for the tourism sector called the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme.

The details of the scheme were announced at a virtual tourism industry event called "Survive to Thrive", which took place on Monday February 1 and was watched by thousands of tourism operators, providers and employers from across the tourism sector.

The allocation was secured by the minister for tourism, culture, arts, sport, Gaeltacht and media, Catherine Martin, in Budget 2021, and Fáilte Ireland is responsible for developing and administering the scheme, which will support tourism businesses that were not eligible for the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) payment or previous Fáilte Ireland continuity grant schemes.

Fáilte Ireland also announced its domestic marketing plans, investment commitments for outdoor dining and urban animation, and its strategic priorities for the year ahead at the "Survive to Thrive" event, which provided the tourism industry with details of Fáilte Ireland's plans to help support resilience and survival in the short-term and the recovery of the tourism sector in the long-term.

Grant schemes to provide financial assistance, domestic marketing at national and county levels, urban outdoor investment, business and employee supports with a special focus on mental health, and a new digital transformation programme were unveiled at the event.


Key Initiatives

The key initiatives that Fáilte Ireland has set out for 2021 are as follows:

  • the €55 million Tourism Business Continuity Scheme to help tourism businesses offset fixed costs incurred in 2020 and support them to continue operating through 2021;
  • heavyweight investment in domestic marketing to drive domestic tourism once the country reopens including county-specific campaigns and a focus on Dublin;
  • employee, business and sector supports for areas such as strategy and leadership, finance and cost efficiency, food and beverage innovation, and maximising revenue and service excellence to drive performance and help businesses to navigate the challenges that they are facing, as well as well-being services to support employers and employees at this difficult time;
  • and the enhancement of urban areas through 31 Destination Town projects across the country and two new funding schemes - the Outdoor Dining Grant Scheme, the aim of which is to improve the quality of outdoor dining spaces and offer reassurance around safety and comfort, and the Urban Animation Grant Scheme, the aim of which is to animate Ireland's cities and towns with innovative lighting and art installations.

Minister Martin Statement

Speaking at the event, Martin said, "I welcome Fáilte Ireland's action plans for 2021, which I am confident will have a positive impact on the industry and will be key to helping it survive and thrive in the year ahead. I allocated €55 million to Fáilte Ireland for the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as part of Budget 2021 and this will be important to help those strategically important tourism businesses that are ineligible for other supports. The government will continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and ensure that appropriate supports are in place. We are now developing tourism for survival through the pandemic and recovery in the medium- and long-term."

Fáilte Ireland CEO Statement

During Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly's address at the event, he stated, "This has been the most challenging year tourism has ever faced. The sector's revenue has declined by a massive €6 billion, and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. We are launching the first phase of the €55 million Tourism Business Continuity Scheme on February 11th. This will provide those tourism businesses who have not received support through the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) or previous Fáilte Ireland business continuity schemes with direct financial assistance.

"Domestic tourism will be the first to return, and we plan to invest significantly in domestic marketing once domestic tourism can restart. Our research tells us that the 'Keep Discovering' campaign we launched prior to the COVID-19 pandemic resonates even more strongly with people now, and we will be rolling the campaign out at both a national and county level to drive domestic tourism when the country re-opens.

"We are also launching two new funding schemes in collaboration with our local authority partners to improve the quality of outdoor dining spaces in our key tourism destinations and enhance urban areas to make them more appealing to visitors."


IHF President's Reaction

Reacting to the announcements that were made during the "Strive to Survive" event, Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) chief executive Tim Fenn said that the IHF welcomes Fáilte Ireland's action plan for 2021 and its plans for growing and developing the domestic tourism market, as well as Martin's assurances that the government is continuing to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and ensure that appropriate supports are in place.

Fenn added, "The roll-out of the vaccines is a chink of light, but the road to recovery for Irish tourism will take time. The tourism and hospitality industry, Ireland's largest indigenous employer, has been hardest hit by the pandemic restrictions, with some 160,000 jobs lost across the country last year.

"As an industry, we are focussed on restoring these livelihoods and protecting the remaining jobs that the industry still supports.  The best way to ensure this is to safeguard the businesses and ensure their survival. Last year, the hotel sector alone experienced a €2.6 billion drop in revenues compared to 2019, which gives some sense of the pressure that tourism businesses are under.

"Home grown tourism was vital to Irish tourism last year. However, with over 70% of tourism revenue in recent years coming from overseas visitors, it was never going to replace the lost revenue that followed the collapse of that market. When it is safe, international travel will resume and the overseas market will recover, but until then Irish tourism is solely reliant on the domestic market. As a sector, we will do everything we can to provide people with safe, relaxing, and enjoyable breaks when travel restrictions are lifted.

"Fáilte Ireland's plans for training and development are very welcome, as we work to maintain Ireland's longstanding global reputation as a tourism destination. Tourism businesses' teams, including those from across the hotel sector, are critical to that, ensuring the consistent delivery of a quality product."


RAI President's Reaction

Meanwhile, in the Restaurant Association of Ireland's (RAI) President's Report for February, which was published on February 1, RAI president Mark McGowan stated, "This morning, Failte Ireland conducted their annual report. Initiatives such as an outdoor dining grant along with an urban animation grant were all discussed. Event caterers seem to be excluded from the €55 million grant scheme as they did not get a mention. An extension of the 9% VAT rate until 2025 was mentioned. We will know over the coming weeks as to the exact detail of each of these commitments and how much of an impact they will have on our industry."

© 2021 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.