Some fear that the sector will not return to normal operations and visitor numbers until 2022, the Kerry Tourism Industry Federation says
The 'Mecca' of Irish tourism has warned that the Covid-19 pandemic will cut visitor numbers this year by almost 80pc with hotels, pubs and restaurants now entirely reliant on Government action to survive the crisis.
The Kerry Tourism Industry Federation (KTIF) said its members face 11,300 job losses - with some outlets considering remaining closed until 2021 because of the critical loss of foreign visitors.
Some fear that the sector will not return to normal operations and visitor numbers until 2022.
Now, Kerry tourism officials have called for a nationwide catalyst package to encourage domestic holidays once the national travel restrictions have been lifted.
It is hoped that a 'staycation' boom from Irish families seeking to replace foreign holidays could offset a portion of the Covid-19 losses.
The tourism sector warned its best hope of bouncing back from the pandemic impact is now via a surge in 'staycation' holidays by Irish families.
“Tourism is our lifeblood. The tourism sector is critical to the economy and viability of life in Kerry, it impacts on every household.
It was the first industry to feel the economic devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic and it may well be the last to recover,” KTIF boss Pat O'Leary said.
In Kerry, tourism generates €661m annually and employs some 14,000 people.
Per capita, Kerry boasts the highest rate of hotel beds in Ireland.
Since the pandemic hit and control restrictions were imposed in March, 82pc of the tourism workforce in Kerry has been left unemployed.
“Our members are now faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to open for what will be left of the 2020 season. Many may never reopen unless the government takes a proactive stance. We need help to navigate our way through this crisis,” Mr O’Leary said.
The industry now wants a determined support campaign from the Government.
KTIF is calling for a two year VAT amnesty, rates relief, loan restructuring, insurance premium rebates, employment creation grants and wage subsidy supports.
"We are also calling for a stimulus package that encourages domestic tourism once restrictions on travel have eased," he said.
"We also want a commitment to invest in the development of the tourism product for the new Post-Covid world and for a Kerry representative at the Cabinet table."
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