A number of Irish hospitality organisations have called for additional government supports for hospitality businesses that are closed due to COVID-19-related health and safety restrictions.
The organisations' calls followed the announcement on Tuesday February 23 that level five COVID-19-related health and safety lockdown restrictions will be in place until at least April 5. However, a potential reopening date for hospitality businesses was not given, and it is likely that they will remain closed for at least several more months due to the continuing pandemic.
Talking to RTÉ's Raidió na Gaeltachta several days ago, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that he does not expect hospitality businesses to be permitted to reopen before mid-summer for health and safety reasons.
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Along with announcing the extension of level five restrictions on February 23, the government said that business supports and the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) will be extended until June. However, several of the country's key hospitality organisations do not believe that this measure is enough.
IHF President Statment
Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) president Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said that while the IHF recognises the difficult balance facing the government, "the government is in denial in relation to the supports required by those sectors, including hotels and guesthouses, that have been devastated by the restrictions."
Fitzgerald Kane continued, "It is time for the government to step up to the mark for those sectors of the economy that are being asked to stay closed. Government supports to date have been very welcome and have made a difference for hotels and guesthouses. However, these supports are wholly inadequate in the face of an extended lockdown and the prospect that the all-important summer period will be eroded. Additional supports are required urgently to help tourism and hospitality businesses survive until society reopens and the sector can restore the livelihoods of their teams. Over 160,000 people have been laid off temporarily and many feel they are being left behind and, in fact, that we are no longer 'in this together'.
"We have been repeatedly told that there will be no 'cliff edge', yet a piecemeal approach is being taken that does not recognise the challenges being faced including those involved in reopening businesses. We need a broader vision with clarity and certainty around supports. Hotels need to plan if they are to survive and right now planning is impossible for businesses and, also for our teams who have already been deeply affected.
"This is about real lives and livelihoods. Before this pandemic, over 270,000 livelihoods were supported by the tourism and hospitality industry, which was one in 10 of all Irish jobs with 70% of these jobs located outside of Dublin. These jobs matter - not only to the people working within the industry but to the wider economy, especially the many parts of regional Ireland where tourism is the only show in town.
"We appreciate the many challenges facing government in trying to reopen society safely. However, the tourism and hospitality industry has been disproportionately impacted. Our members are reporting historically low bookings for the key summer months of July and August as the uncertainty over the timeframe for easing restrictions impacts on consumer confidence.
"Tourism can recover. It is proven to be an engine for economic recovery following the financial crisis when it was the number one sector in terms of job creation. It can be again with the right government supports. Hotels and guesthouses are a key component of its infrastructure. A failure to support the industry now will have ramifications for the future of Ireland's tourism offering and for the economy that could take decades to remedy."
RAI CEO Statement
The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said that "existing supports do not go far enough", and its CEO, Adrian Cummins, added that restaurant businesses and employees are "running out of money".
LVA Chief Executive Statement
Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) chief executive Donall O'Keeffe stated, "In the absence any clarity and with closures set to continue for an indeterminant period, there needs to be a marked increase in the level of financial supports provided to the sector. The extensions announced are not sufficient. There needs to be an immediate doubling of COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) payments, extension of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) to the end of 2021 and the waiving of commercial rates for the rest of the year. These supports are essential in ensuring these businesses can survive and reopen when it is safe to do so."
VFI Chief Executive Statement
Meanwhile, Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) chief executive Padraig Cribben said, "Given the circumstances our members are facing, it's not acceptable that so far government refuses to increase the CRSS payment. The current 10% rate is not enough for publicans who have no clue when they will be allowed reopen. We're calling for the rate to be increased to 20%."
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