Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
115. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the supports he plans to put in place for the licensed limousine sector in view of the medium-term outlook for the sector due to Covid-19 and its effect on the limousine trade (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30823/20]
I recognise that the transport sector has been acutely affected by COVID-19 as public health restrictions have discouraged people from travelling generally. Small public service vehicle (SPSV) operators have been badly affected due to their dependence on the hospitality and tourism sectors. Limousine operators, who are particularly dependent on overseas tourism and major events, have suffered a near total drop in demand for their services and many have been simply unable to work since the pandemic started in March.
The Government has introduced a wide-ranging programme of supports for affected businesses. These supports include wage subsidies, rates waivers, re-start grants, lending facilities, equity injection, and business advisory supports. Many SPSV operators, including limousine drivers, have been able to avail of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment which will remain open to new applicants for the remainder of the year. This is an important lifeline for SPSV operators. Many may have gone back to work as the economy began to reopen only to find that subsequent necessary public health measures have once again suppressed passenger demand for their services. The continued accessibility of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will provide an important safety net to operators, recognising their dependency on other sectors of the economy, notably the hospitality industry
The National Transport Authority (NTA), the industry regulator, also took a number of actions to reduce the immediate financial burden on SPSV operators and to make it easier for them to return to the industry when circumstances change. These included licence extensions and late renewal fee waivers. It has also engaged with the insurance industry to facilitate a suspension of SPSV insurance for those operators who decide to temporarily stop working and suspend their licences. I remain committed to helping reduce the costs to limousine operators and that is why my Department is providing the necessary funding to the NTA to enable it to waive annual vehicle licence renewal fees for 2021.
The 2021 Budget has now put in place a number of substantial measures to support and strengthen the tourism sector. These are sector-specific measures, and are augmented and supplemented by the economy-wide business supports and social welfare measures which were already in place as well as those which were announced in the budget. The total funding for the tourism sector will increase in 2021 by over €59 million or 36% over the initial 2020 allocation in Budget 2020 to €220.9 million. Further details on these measures are available from my colleague, the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin T.D.
Finally, I should also mention that, in recognition of the nexus between limousine operators and the tourism industry, in July it was arranged to have the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Small Public Service Vehicles appointed to the Fáilte Ireland Industry Advisory Group to ensure that the interests of these operators are appropriately represented as the Government plans the recovery of the tourism and hospitality sectors.