Thursday, 19 January 2023
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
226. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which provision is being made to ensure the hotel and leisure industry is adequately prepared for the tourist season, both in terms of staff and accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2560/23]
The potentially lower supply of tourism accommodation in 2023 due to a range of factors, including Ireland's response to the current humanitarian emergency, is of concern given the multiplier impact in the wider tourism economy of visitor spend on tourism accommodation. My officials are engaging on this with a number of Departments, including the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth which is working urgently across Government with agencies, NGOs and local authorities to bring new accommodation on board so that the State’s humanitarian responsibilities can be met.
Ireland is resolute in our solidarity and support for Ukraine and we are honouring our commitment to help people who have been displaced by this horrendous war. This is by some distance the largest humanitarian operation ever undertaken by the Irish State and tourism accommodation has played a vital part in this national response.
The Government is monitoring the impact of the humanitarian response on the tourism sector, and I have secured continued additional funding for tourism in Budget 2023 totalling €30 million. Of this, €15 million was secured for overseas marketing of Ireland and the development of The Invitation project. As global competition heightens, sustaining extensive marketing campaigns will be vital to support the on-going recovery effort, building on the initial inbound tourism demand seen in 2022. Ensuring the resilience and growth of this demand is vital to the industry, to jobs and to communities right across the island of Ireland.
Domestically, an additional €15 million will underpin a range of measures to support the sector including boosting the industry’s recruitment and retention efforts, sustainable tourism initiatives and establishment of a register of short-term letting properties as part of the Government’s “Housing for All” reforms.
Recruitment and retention of staff continues to be a significant challenge for the tourism sector, not just in Ireland but in many countries around the world. Prior to Covid, the sector had registered consistent increases in the numbers employed in Ireland’s regions and was an important driver of greater regional balance and dispersed economic activity. A sustained, and sustainable, rebuild is essential as tourism supports communities and drives regional development in a manner unlike other sectors.
My Department participates on the Tourism and Hospitality Careers Oversight Group which brings together industry representatives, state agencies, Government Departments and the education sector. The Group has pivoted to focus on supporting the industry to address some of its immediate recruitment challenges this year. My Department and Fáilte Ireland are also working with industry and across Government Departments to ensure a co-ordinated approach to addressing the labour and skills shortages in the sector across all roles.
With regard to working conditions in the sector, Fáilte Ireland’s research indicates that 70% of people within the sector see tourism as a long-term career option. While this is a good proportion, Fáilte Ireland has a range of programmes to build skills and capability for businesses and individual employees including a suite of online self-directed professional development courses.
The number of vacancies across the industry has fallen, and is now estimated at 22,000, down from the previously estimated 40,000. Around 70% of businesses that are recruiting are increasing their pay and offering flexible work patterns, more stable work schedules and other benefits such as compensation for working unsocial hours which is becoming increasingly common. The research also shows that staff retention has become less difficult, with employers reporting improvements in day-to-day operations. From an employee perspective, job security among workers has grown and acceptability around working hours has increased. However, while these improvements in employee sentiment are encouraging, more still needs to be done to make working in the industry as appealing as possible.
As part of the drive to promote tourism as an attractive sector within which to work, Fáilte Ireland has launched a new “Employer Excellence” programme to help all participating businesses to improve their employer practices, and enhance their reputation as excellent employers. This will help employers to drive great employee engagement, build the appeal of their workplace and unlock greater levels of performance across their business. This new programme should lead to greater retention of staff and improve the view of the industry as career of choice.