Need to keep the domestic tourism discovery going

Senator Mark Wall
24 March 2021
  • One-stop shop for tourism training must be introduced
  • Local authorities need road map to make the most of outdoor dining
  • Government cobbled together Stay and Spend scheme needs rethink

Speaking in the Seanad, Labour tourism spokesperson Senator Mark Wall called on Government to heed the calls of the domestic tourism industry to take action to protect it. Senator Wall said that it is essential that those responsible for the ‘ceád míle fáilte’ can continue in the industry and be supported by a range of practical measures from training to rethinking our outdoor spaces. In an industry that employs approx. 270,000 workers, retaining tourism jobs and skills will be vital to the recovery of this industry. Senator Wall called on Government to rethink the supports in place, listen to the representatives groups and bolster domestic travel once it is safe to do so. 

Senator Wall said: 

“We are all waiting on the roll out of the vaccination to get people back to work and to make plans for any domestic tourism this year. People’s level of optimism for safe domestic tourism this year is low, no doubt linked to the slow roll out rate of the vaccine. 

“At a time when youth unemployment runs at over 50%, the tourism industry will play its part once again in getting many of these youbg people back to work once it is safe to do so. It’s time for Government to identify resources and training opportunities for those in the industry to advance their careers and elevate expertise while they remain out of work. I would like to see Government set up a one-stop shop for those working in the industry which would provide courses, training and support to develop the industry and increase the quality of jobs. We must be as ambitious for the industry as we are for the famed workers in the industry.

“The success of the Green and Blue ways must be highlighted as an opportunity to source new employment and provide a sense of hope and optimism to people. I’ve been struck by the numbers already using the new Blue way in my home county of Kildare over the last number of weeks. There is not only an international opportunity here but also a major domestic opportunity. We must capitalise on this opportunity by providing funding for those who wish to invest and develop tourist attractions along these tracks, attractions that have the potential to sustain rural communities, providing the jobs that such communities will need into the future. 

“It’s time that we embraced the idea of outdoor dining and provide a road map to local authorities and businesses to fully embrace this. We could revolutionise our open, public spaces and revitalise many towns and cities. A clear plan for outdoor dining would get those employed in the hospitality sector back to work and give people a sense of hope, something to look forward to, an opportunity to plan. We’ve seen the way in which cities like New York have embraced outdoor dining with gusto, offering people a sense of community and opportunity to socialise safely. 

“In any conversation around reopening hospitality and boosting our domestic tourism industry, we need a genuine commitment from Government to support businesses with consumer-friendly schemes. The Government’s cobbled together Stay and Spend scheme was completely ill-thought through and ultimately ineffective. With a budgeted cost of €270 million – total expenditure recorded on receipts amounted to only €9,207,244. This too cumbersome scheme was destined to fail. 

“The Government now has an opportunity to redesign a more user-friendly scheme for when we are open to domestic travel, perhaps one similar to the UK where emphasis is put on the Government to pay part of the Bill, with the consumer paying the other part during the sale. Let’s take a common, people-first approach and encourage domestic tourism when it’s safe to do so. 

“There are so many opportunities for the tourism industry and it’s time that the Government treat it as the vital sector that it is. We’re talking about a sector that employs over a quarter of a million people. Speaking at the tourism committee, the various representatives groups spoke with one voice, they have given the Government the information needed to save the industry, what they want now is action to protect and support a vibrant tourism industry.”

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