'The worst possible thing to do at the worst possible time' - Minister Griffin on changing the hospitality VAT rate
Tourism minister Brendan Griffin says now would be the “worst time” to change the VAT rate for the hospitality sector, after the number of UK tourists has dropped on the back of currency swings.
Speaking at the Failte Ireland launch of its 'Get Brexit Ready' programme which aims to provide industry supports to businesses struggling with the loss of trade created by Brexit, Minister Griffin said
"you need to keep all of your taxation policy under constant scrutiny and review but certainly I don’t see a need at the moment for changing it and if anything it would be the worst possible thing to do at the worst possible time in my opinion".
"It was a massive stimulus for the entire industry when it was introduced in the mini budget in 2011 as a temporary measure and some people have said that it has done its job, I would maintain that it is doing its job and I would certainly feel that it has a major role to play in the future, particularly in the context of Brexit. I will certainly be fighting very hard to see that retained," the Minister said.
On the matter of specific tourism measures in the budget, Minister Griffin said that we had already seen a number of measures that have been very helpful for the tourism industry through budgets in previous years, and again this budget was going to be no different.
The Minister went on to say that he would be working trying to restore tourism budget cuts in October’s budget, "but unfortunately I'm not minister for finance," Minister Griffin commented.
Referring to the 6pc decline in tourists from Great Britain to Ireland so far this year, Paul Kelly CEO of Failte Ireland said that the decline had been fairly stable over the past few months. Mr Kelly said that he was hopeful that the decline would not get any worse but that the organisation needed to plan for it.
Failte Ireland said that it estimates that Brexit will have meant 300,000 less British trips to Ireland in 2017 which, taken in isolation, would represent €88m in revenue and an estimated 1,900 tourism jobs lost had the fall in British numbers not been compensated by strong performance in other markets, in particular with the number of visitors from North American up 17pc between January and July of this year.
Visitor numbers from mainland Europe to Ireland were also up 4pc in the period, while visitors from other areas were up 18pc.
Failte Ireland is set to focus on assisting businesses to target best prospects in the UK and identify new opportunities there in a move to off-set the falling numbers from Britain.
In addition the authority said that it would be working with businesses which are over-exposed to the British market to diversify their trade and win business in Europe, North America, and new and growing markets such as China.
"The ongoing Brexit volatility underlines the extent to which tourism can be at the mercy of external factors beyond our control. However, we can meet our current challenges by working on those things which remain within our control – our visitor experiences, competitiveness, capacity, and skill," Mr Kelly said.