Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
280. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the support that has been made available since the foreign tourism industry virtually closed down in March 2020 to support the chauffeur drive and limousine industry; if further supports are planned in view of the large overheads in terms of borrowing many in the industry face; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44354/20]
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 and small coach operators have been badly affected due to their dependence on the hospitality and tourism sectors. Limousine and small coach 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, such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, available for business whose turnover has fallen 30% and liquidity and investment measures such as the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme. Other measures include rates waivers and business advisory supports.
Many self-employed SPSV operators, including self-employed 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 and continue to be paid until April 2021. 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 2021 Budget has now put in place a number of substantial, sector-specific measures to support and strengthen the tourism sector. 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. Fáilte Ireland has also been tasked with developing a Business Continuity Scheme to help coach tourism businesses through this very difficult period. Further details on these measures and this scheme are available from my colleague, the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin T.D.
The National Transport Authority (NTA), the SPSV industry regulator, also took a number of actions to aid SPSV operators, such as 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 SPSV operators, including 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.