Tourists are vital to the Irish economy but for the pleasure of coming here the Government hits them with a tax, and this is affecting tourism in Galway and across the State.
This is the view of Fine Gael councillor Brian Walsh who is calling on the Government to abolish the airport departure tax, which was introduced in the last Budget.
Cllr Walsh said the tax has raised less than €100m in its first nine months of operation but “cost thousands of jobs”, including jobs in Galway.
“A study commissioned by the airlines estimated that as a direct result of the tax 3,000 tourist jobs were lost in the first year and many more job losses down the supply chain,” he said. “Galway has felt the brunt of these job losses.”
Cllr Walsh also pointed out how last year visitor numbers fell by one million and revenue by €1 billion. Numerous hotels and pubs closed and an estimated 10,000 restaurant jobs were lost in cutbacks and closures.
“For an island country, air access is an absolutely crucial consideration,” he said. “People must be able to get here easily and cheaply. This makes it all the more inexplicable that, just as tourism figures were collapsing, the Government introduced a tax on visitors.”
Cllr Walsh said the departure tax is a clear inhibiter to tourists, as evidenced by the actions of Ryanair and Aer Lingus.
“Both absorbed the tax themselves because they knew if they passed it on they would lose even more customers,” he said. “However they have also taken some of their planes out of Ireland altogether and use them to promote and support tourism between other countries, to airports that aren’t raising their landing charges, to countries that don’t tax visitors just for turning up.”
Fine Gael will this week bring a motion before the Dáil to scrap the departure tax, and while it is unlikely to be supported by the Government, it will seek to abolish it again, should it get into power at the next election.