The Government needs to do more for the tourism industry here or nearly 200,000 jobs could be “under threat”, according to ISME (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association).
The association’s chief executive, Mark Fielding, said the Government should not lose sight of the importance of the hospitality industry to the economy, especially during the economic downturn.
“The tourism industry is one of Ireland’s largest and most important indigenous sectors, supporting an estimated 180,000 jobs, generating €4.6bn in revenue, yet ISME believe the industry receives no priority status from the Government and relatively little financial support.
The association called on the Government to take a number of measures for reform of the tourism industry, including a “root and branch reform of the existing tourism agencies structure”, marketing grants for hotels and guesthouses, and promoting Ireland for sporting holidays.
Mr Fielding said a number of government charges, including the travel tax and employment regulation orders, needed to be abolished as well.
“Irish tourist businesses are burdened with significantly higher input costs compared to their European competitors with the high costs of energy waste and local charges negatively impacting on the overall price to the end consumer.
“While Ireland cannot influence the size or rate of expansion of the international tourist market, we can influence the share of the available market commanded by Irish tourism. Ultimately Ireland’s share of international tourism markets will be determined by our competitiveness,” he added.
Costs are not the only issue of concern, continued Mr Fielding. “More effort is required in promoting Ireland as a tourist destination, both internationally and nationally.
“Ireland has a significant offering for potential visitors, more so than many of the mainland European countries.
“We are still seen as ‘green’ environmentally, with exceptional scenery and excellent golfing and other sporting facilities.
“The potential that the Irish diaspora presents together with cultural, heritage and genealogy tourism must be the focus of our international marketing with additional resources directed to this crucial area.
“The totality of tourism must be recognised for the essential contribution it makes to the economy through employment, investment, government revenue and regional development. ISME believes it is time for the Government to re-prioritise tourism,” Mr Fielding added.
“For too long, the importance of tourism, the jobs and businesses it supports have been relegated in favour of other sectors.
“Tourism is our highest added-value ‘export’ and should be recognised, acknowledged and provided with the adequate resources required for it to develop and grow, maintaining the thousands of businesses and jobs reliant on its success.”
In a statement the Department of Tourism said “it was reviewing sectoral pay agreements and the travel tax”.