IRELAND is set for a spending boom as live entertainment-starved revellers flock to nightclubs and music venues this weekend after a 20-month Covid-19 shutdown.
Leading the way will be the €45m Guinness Cork Jazz Festival – the first major indoor music festival staged in Ireland since the pandemic erupted in February 2020.
Founded in 1978, Cork Jazz ranks as one of Ireland's longest-running annual music events and is a critical tourism boost for the south-west.
The organisers are hopeful a successful jazz festival, which starts tomorrow, will blaze a trail for the return of other live entertainment events and festivals.
Diageo Partnerships Director Rory Sheridan said it was very exciting to see Cork Jazz return.
“Ireland is brimming with some of the most talented and creative musicians, artists and performers, but during the last 18 months they’ve had no stage, no pubs, no venues or stadiums," he said.
"This will be the first major festival in Ireland since the pandemic to take place, which is a significant milestone not only for musicians and the events industry, who have been one of hardest-hit industries, but also for festival goers who have been waiting for some good news.”
Despite initial confusion over the precise regulations to apply to indoor entertainment events such as live gigs and discos, business groups are forecasting strong consumer spending over the next two months.
While some venues may be operating at reduced capacity because of Covid-19 controls, demand for music, comedy and dance events has been described as “incredible”.
Irish cities and towns will reap the major benefit of the windfall amid predictions people starved of social and entertainment outlets since March 2020 will now flock to urban venues.
Record spending is now forecast between Halloween and Christmas as the entertainment industry reopens, the economy rebounds from Covid-19 and householders increasingly dip into multi-million savings stockpiled over the 20-month pandemic.
Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Galway hoteliers are hoping for a city break Christmas shopping boom.
It is estimated that €1bn extra will be spent this Christmas as people savour the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, with the average Irish person set to spend almost €600 on Christmas purchases alone.
Confidence has been further boosted by the Government dismissing talk of further lockdowns despite the surge in Covid-19 case numbers.
Taken with entertainment and social spending, a whopping €160,000 a minute will now be spent each weekend from mid-November until Christmas week.
Irish chambers of commerce and retail groups stressed that strong trade from Halloween to Christmas is vital for business and employment.
Chambers, business associations, Retail Excellence Ireland and the Small Firms Association have again underlined the importance of supporting Irish firms.
A major 'shop local' campaign will again be operated this Christmas.
The Central Bank has revised upwards its economic growth forecasts on the back of the surge in consumer confidence and economic performance.
They expect Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Ireland to soar by 15.3pc – almost double what it was forecasting (8.4pc) just last July.
But the Event Industry Alliance (EAI) said its sector had been blatantly discriminated against throughout the lengthy lockdowns, and by the fact it was reopening almost three months after major sporting events were allowed in Ireland.
Music and nightclub operators also warned if a strict seat-alone policy is enforced for gigs, some venues will lose more than 50pc of their capacity, making smaller gigs uneconomic.
Promoter Shane Dunne said it was “a shambles”.
However, the bounce-back of the live entertainment sector isn't expected to conclude at Christmas and there has already been heavy spending on major concert events for 2022.
Music industry mogul Louis Wash has predicted 2022 will be "a huge year" for the Irish live music industry.
Major acts including Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, Bryan Adams and Ed Sheeran have confirmed concerts for next year, with speculation surrounding potential Irish gigs by Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen.
Senator Tim Lombard said the full reopening of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time sector from tomorrow was a landmark event for Irish society and the economy.
He said the success of the reopening, and the scale of the economic bonus, will be determined by how well people adhere to regulations and protection measures.
“Wide and robust implementation of the Covid-19 certificate, along with ID, will be required to enter hospitality businesses," he said.
"All protective measures should be employed by everyone, including acting fast, isolating and getting tested if we have symptoms; wearing our face coverings where appropriate, making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated; maintaining adequate social distancing whenever appropriate; and covering our coughs and sneezes and keeping our hands clean."
“Nightclubs can reopen with the appropriate protective measures in place, there will no longer be limits on the numbers attending weddings and religious services, and indoor live music, drama, entertainment and sporting events can take place provided they are fully seated."
“As we move forward together, it is vital that we continue to act responsibly and monitor the ongoing risk posed by this dangerous and unpredictable disease."
The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) stressed strong sales between Halloween and Christmas will be vital for operators left crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic and successive lockdowns.
RAI President Adrian Cummins said it was a critical period for the hospitality sector, but he warned the prospects for 2022 have taken a hit with the Government decision to end the special 9pc VAT rate from August 31.
"There are still some long hard months ahead. Since lockdown measures and restrictions have been put in place, our industry has complied with the rules. Public safety and the safety of workers have always been at the top of our agenda."
Dublin Chamber of Commerce public affairs director Fergus Sharpe said it was important the Government continue to support measures while the economy returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Dublin Chamber represents 1,300 firms across the greater capital area.
“Avoiding a cliff edge to supports was crucial to ensure that businesses impacted by Covid-19 are given a chance to survive and to recover from the collapse in revenue which many have experienced," he said.
"A phased withdrawal of EWSS (Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme) is important as it will allow for financial planning. The extension of the 9pc VAT rate and targeted commercial rates waiver will also come as a welcome relief to impacted companies.”