Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
My Department has liaised with other Government Departments and industry representative bodies, to align the economy wide COVID-19 supports and initiatives with tourism and hospitality needs. The measures put in place by the Government to support businesses initially focused on supporting those who have lost their jobs and in supporting businesses to remain viable during this difficult time with specifically targeted supports to assist companies to stay operational and retain their staff.
As a result, many tourism businesses are now availing the various cross-sectoral economic supports that the Government has already put in place such as; the wage subsidy scheme, increased unemployment benefits, the state credit guarantee scheme, working capital loan schemes, enterprise support schemes and deferrals of tax liabilities, VAT, social contributions and local authority rates.
Government will continue to explore funding potential for all enterprises including tourism businesses as they work through the challenges facing them, including through any mechanisms allowable through the EU’s state aid framework.
Fáilte Ireland has set up a COVID-19 Industry Advisory Group which meets weekly. The purpose of this group is to provide support to the tourism industry and to facilitate the timely sharing of information and insights to help improve the sector's understanding and response to the crisis. Fáilte Ireland has also developed a COVID-19 Business Support Hub which offers a suite of targeted supports for tourism businesses including a series of webinars from experts in each field, as well as advice guides with detailed FAQs and templates where necessary.
To assist tourism businesses reopening in line with the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, Fáilte Ireland has published guidelines for the tourism sector, prepared in consultation with the tourism industry and relevant authorities. These guidelines are intended to assist tourism businesses meet requirements in line with the Return to Work Safely protocol and based on the latest health advice.
Minister Ross and I have appointed a Tourism Recovery Taskforce to prepare a Tourism Recovery Plan which will include a set of recommendations on how best the Irish tourism sector can adapt and recover in the changed tourism environment as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The plan will identify priority aims, key enablers and market opportunities for the sector for the period 2020-2023.
It is envisaged that the Taskforce will establish working groups to carry out specific tasks and that the Taskforce will undertake a widespread stakeholder consultation process whereby all sectors and interested parties, including registered holiday cottage owners, will have an opportunity to provide constructive inputs and innovative ideas on how this vital sector to our economy can adapt and recover in a meaningful and sustainable way. The Taskforce will report back later this year.
808. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the social distancing guidance provided to tour bus operators in view of the fact that many tours have been deferred to 2021; the supports available to support the operators that have lost significant business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11303/20]
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 health emergency, the Government has been clear that continued operation of the public transport sector is important and designated public transport as an “essential service” during the Covid-19 emergency, recognising the importance of keeping the system running especially for carrying essential workers and other passengers making necessary journeys throughout the crisis period.
The introduction of restrictions on public movement and the temporary closure of many workplaces, education centres and leisure and social activities across the country has led to an unprecedented fall in demand for public transport. Nonetheless, public transport has served, and will continue to serve, a vital role in transporting essential workers and in supporting Government’s Roadmap to Reopening Society and Business in the weeks and months ahead.
Public health advices on social distancing are relevant across the public transport sector, and operators are implementing measures to facilitate adequate social distancing measures on-board; this significantly reduces the carrying capacity of public transport services.
While the majority of public transport in Ireland is provided by the publicly-subvented bus and rail services funded through National Transport Authority's (NTA) public service obligation (PSO) programme, the public transport system also includes non-subvented bus services provided on a commercial basis by bus and coach businesses of varying size. I understand that about 90% of the commercial bus operators have suspended their services or are providing significantly reduced services at present.
From my Department's engagement with their representatives, and indeed from the NTA's regular engagement with them throughout the crisis, I understand the very difficult business environment that the commercial bus operators, including tour bus operators, are now dealing with. Indeed, across Government we are acutely aware that the Covid-19 situation presents huge challenges for many business sectors. That is why we have worked to introduce a wide programme of Government supports for impacted businesses. The range of supports available includes new schemes of wage subsidies, rates waivers, re-start grants, lending facilities, equity injection, and business advisory supports for example.
Minister Griffin and I have also appointed a Tourism Recovery Taskforce to prepare a Tourism Recovery Plan which will include a set of recommendations on how best the Irish tourism sector can adapt and recover in the changed tourism environment as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The plan will identify priority aims, key enablers and market opportunities for the sector for the period 2020-2023.
To assist tourism businesses reopening in line with the Government’s Roadmap, Fáilte Ireland has published guidelines for the tourism sector, prepared in consultation with the tourism industry and relevant authorities. These guidelines are intended to assist tourism businesses to meet requirements in line with the Return to Work Safely Protocol and based on the latest health advice.