Westmeath hotels and guesthouses today called on local candidates in the General Election to stand firmly behind Irish tourism as one of the county’s largest indigenous employers. Speaking at the launch of the Irish Hotels Federation’s (IHF ) four-point plan, Joe O’Brien, chairman of the IHF’s midlands branch said that tourism can be a major engine for job creation and sustainable growth in the local economy provided decisive actions are taken by the next government.
The four-point plan – A Strategy for Job Creation and Economic Growth – calls on the next government to support tourism by prioritising:
1. Effective marketing of Ireland abroad to encourage more people to visit Ireland.
2. Greater cost competitiveness, particularly around government controlled costs.
3. Appropriate financial support for tourism businesses from the banking industry.
4. Removal of excess hotel capacity to ensure the overall viability of the sector.
Mr O’Brien says, “Since 2007, overseas visitors to Ireland have dropped by 2.2 million, resulting in lost annual revenues of €1.7 billion to the economy. Despite this catastrophic drop, tourism still offers the enormous untapped potential to play a significant role in Ireland’s recovery – provided we have the right recovery strategy in place. This needs to be backed up by strong political leadership from the next government.”
“We’re calling on local candidates from the main political parties to commit to a co-ordinated approach to tourism that bolsters Ireland as a leading destination for overseas visitors. We believe this would generate up to 20,000 new jobs in tourism businesses across the country by 2015.”
The IHF states that tourism remains an enormous indigenous asset accounting for one in ten jobs in Ireland – employing 180,000 people. Unlike multinational corporations, which can move facilities at short notice, tourism is a fundamental part of the fabric of Irish society and culture contributing to the local economies of every village, town, and city throughout the country. Nationally, it generates €4.6 billion in revenue with €1.3 billion collected in taxes, representing 3.7 per cent of total tax take.
The IHF Policy Document can be viewed in full at www.ihf.ie/documents/IHFPolicyDocument2011GeneralElection pdf.