Saturday 23 March 2019

'Outrageous' excise damaging Ireland's image abroad, hospitality sector claims

The Wild Atlantic Way has been hailed for its benefit to the tourism sector
The Wild Atlantic Way has been hailed for its benefit to the tourism sector

Michael Cogley

Prominent members in the food and drink industry have urged the Government to reduce the existing excise rate, saying it has damaged Ireland's image abroad.

Speaking at a discussion panel in the Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin City University economist Tony Foley said high excise duty does not solve the social problems linked to alcohol.

"There are countries with very low excise tax who do not have major social drinking problems and our high excise taxes have not prevented social drinking problems," Mr Foley said.

"The social problems that are associated with alcohol, which are very real and very definite, are not ever going to be solved by high amounts of excise, either on their own or as a significant part of the operation," Mr Foley told the group discussion.

The discussion also dealt with Fáilte Ireland's four major tourism initiatives, including The Wild Atlantic Way. A report on its impact is due to be released on September 17.

The Mayo county chairman of the Vinters Federation of Ireland, Alan Gielty, said the initiative has boosted his businesses. "It's (Achill) not like a town that you can pass through you have to specifically go to Achill and this is where initiatives like the Wild Atlantic Way made a huge business to our local businesses."

The president of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Anthony Gray, says the current rate of excise duty is unfair on small businesses and says that wine is taxed "outrageously".

"The current high level of excise duty is completely unfair on small businesses and I've no doubt that alcohol taxes have damaged our image abroad."

There are 26 new distilleries in development across Ireland. Of the 26, three each are in Dublin and Waterford with another two in Mayo.

According to the Irish Whiskey Association, the industry employs 5,000 people and the association expect this number to grow to 6,500 by 2025.

The managing director of the Old Jameson Distillery, Ray Dempsey, said the Government needs to remove any obstacles to the development of the new distilleries.

"Government and its agencies have an integral part to play in terms of developing Irish whiskey tourism. The 26 new distilleries are going to need a lot of support as they get their products up and running and our advice to government would be to remove any unnecessary barriers that are going to slow down these products."

Mr Dempsey said a bottle of Irish whiskey costs more here than abroad. "That means a New York tourist to Ireland will get to buy one bottle of whiskey here whereas they would buy two bottles of whiskey in their hometown in New York," he said.

"This features as a very frequent query that we get. 'How come we have to pay more for a bottle of Jameson in the home of Irish whiskey?' Clearly the answer to that is, it's because of the excise duty," Mr Dempsey said.

The director of business development with Fáilte Ireland, Paul Kielty, who previously spent nine years in Guinness's marketing department, was confident about tourism.

"The good news is 2015 is shaping up to be the best ever year for Irish tourism, if everything runs as currently we will deliver 7.7 million overseas visitors and the domestic economy in its recovery also seems to be quite buoyant," he said.

Mr Kiely said 34pc of tourists' expenditure is on food and drink and said Fáilte Ireland is looking to grow overseas customers to 25 million by 2025.

Irish Independent

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