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Extra bank holiday not ruled out as tourism industry says Covid-19 impact has been 'catastrophic'

Fáilte Ireland is calling for the VAT rate to be changed to 5% to help the tourism sector.

File Photo: Donegal
File Photo: Donegal
Image: Shutterstock/Paul_Shiels

THE IDEA OF Ireland getting an extra bank holiday has not been ruled out by government.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath met today to discuss the July Stimulus package, the funding and jobs plan the government hopes will help restart the economy.

The plan will target certain sectors that have been impacted significantly due to the pandemic. One of these is the tourism and hospitality sector.

An extra bank holiday at “the tail end” of the year is something former Junior Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin said he was in favour of.

Those in the tourism industry argue it could give a much needed boost to the struggling hotels and restaurants around the country, as well as encourage people to staycation in Ireland this year.

Ireland lags quite a few days behind countries like Austria, Sweden and other European countries when it comes to public holidays.

When asked about whether it is a possibility, Donohoe said:

“We haven’t had the opportunity to talk about the possibility of another bank holiday yet but I do know that this was something put forward by the tourism industry and I have no doubt that this government will listen to the proposals put forward.”

When asked about VAT reductions for the sector, Donohoe said decisions made on the July Stimulus will  have to “right for the economy in its entirety”.

He said each sector is making the case for support, however, he said the government’s borrowing programme already stands at €23 to €30 billion.

Any significant decisions will have to be “considered” as to whether they are affordable for Ireland and ensure they don’t jeopardise the country’s ability to finance our deficit and borrow.

At the Dail Covid-19 committee today, tourism stakeholders said the 14-day self-isolation requirement “effectively closes” Ireland to all overseas visitors.

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Chief executive of Failte Ireland Paul Kelly called on the Government to find a way to reopen for overseas tourism as soon as it is safe to do so.

He said: “Covid has been catastrophic for tourism. It dwarfs any previous crisis. Economically, tourism was hit hardest and will take the longest to recover.

The sector has had four months of revenue and while revenue has stopped, the costs did not.”

Kelly called for the VAT rate to be changed to 5% to help the tourism sector.

He said at 13.5% Ireland had one of the highest VAT rates in the EU where the average was 10-11%.

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