Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport told Irish restaurant owners this week that his Department and the Government are taking concrete steps to help restaurants and the wider tourism industry.
Speaking at the Restaurants Association of Ireland Conference in Dublin, Minister Varadkar said funding is also being prioritised to promote tourism and major sporting events this year to boost the hospitality sector.
“I know that I speak to you at a very difficult time for the restaurant industry and I know that you have been hit hard by falling tourism numbers, the credit crunch and a collapse in domestic demand due to falling incomes and rising unemployment. You have responded as any good business should: by reducing costs, reducing prices, changing menus and promoting special offers.
“But I know you have not been helped by rising costs and intractable costs, many of which are imposed by government or its agencies. While prices in the food, hotel and hospital sector continue to fall, government influenced prices continue to rise.
“The new Government cannot bring back the Celtic Tiger. We cannot pass a law to restore economic growth and we cannot afford a give-away budget to put money back in your customers’ pockets. However, there are things that we can do for the sector and we mean to do them and do them quickly,” vowed the Minister.
Some initiatives proposed by his Department include prioritising the funding of tourism marketing and the staging of major sports events such as the Solheim Cup, UEFA cup final and Volvo Ocean Race, and using the visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama to showcase Ireland on the world stage and making good use of new venues like the Convention Centre Dublin, as well as the Irish presidency of the EU in 2013, to market Dublin as a conference city.
As part of the jobs budget in May there will be a reduction in VAT from 13.5 per cent to 12 per cent; PRSI will be halved on jobs paying up to €356 per week; the travel tax will be abolished in return for new air services; and other VAT measures will be included.
Minister Varadkar’s Department will seek to abolish upward only rent reviews; and will review the JLC/ERO wage-setting system.
“The tourism sector has a special part to play in re-building Ireland, because it has at its core the country's most important asset – Ireland's people,” concluded Minister Varadkar.