It would be tricky to get right, but a 'staycation voucher' could give both us, and Irish tourism, a morale boost and a much-needed break.
If you were given a €500 staycation voucher, what would you spend it on?
A self-catering stay? A splurge in a five-star hotel?
A sea-kayaking adventure, meals out or a campervan rental?
After months of dire news, a golden holiday ticket sounds like wishful thinking, but it’s not as hare-brained as it may seem.
Slovenia already plans to issue €200 tourism vouchers to citizens, Malta will post out €100 vouchers for use this summer, Iceland is giving over-18s vouchers worth 5,000ISK (€33) to spend, and Japan is considering subsidies of around €180 a day to kickstart home holidays.
A €500 staycation voucher for Irish households was first suggested by the The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) for use on registered tourism providers like hotels, B&Bs, restaurants or visitor attractions.
“I think it should happen now,” says its CEO, Eoghan O’Mara Walsh. “There will obviously be a domestic staycation bounce this year, but it’s never going to get close to recouping lost ground, and we need to maximise that bounce.”
Business advisory firm BDO has suggested a one-off €250 “staycation tax credit”. People are used to claiming items like medical receipts at the end of the year, explains Austin Hickey, one of its directors, and a tax credit may also work because it “places no admin burden on the tourism businesses”.
Clearly, such a voucher or credit could only be a small part of a broader recovery plan — including financial supports, job-subsidy schemes, insurance reform and the mother of all marketing drives.
It would also be tricky to get right (What exactly is a household? Would pubs be eligible? Would it encourage price hikes? When would it expire?).
But stimulating us to support Irish tourism would keep businesses going and deliver cashflow and tax receipts. Once out and about, holidaymakers would spend on top of the voucher, and our explorations could inspire future staycations, too.
There are lots of hats being held out right now, but this sector accounts for one in 10 jobs in Ireland and has been at the coalface of Covid-19.
Domestic bookings look strong for July and August, but that shouldn’t be confused with a rebound — 2020 will be a year with few overseas visitors, big festivals, meetings, conferences, sporting events or coach tours.
And winter is coming. The full effects of this pandemic may not be felt until next spring, when a new wave of businesses fails to reopen.
Subsidies alone can’t save Irish tourism. But a smartly conceived voucher could be just the ticket to give both us, and the industry, a morale boost and a much-needed break.
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