Monday 19 August 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'VAT hike has hit tourism industry where it hurts'

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Surprisingly, Dan O'Brien makes the classic error of mistaking volume and value when he writes about the tourism industry being "in blooming health" in his opinion piece (Irish Independent, August 2).

His principal point is that the tourism VAT increase brought in on January 1 has not damaged the sector. If only this was true.

It is correct that the volume of visitor arrivals, according to the CSO, is up 3pc. However, these are arrival figures and include day trippers and transiting passengers, the latter growing considerably as Dublin Airport becomes a hub between North America and Europe. The real figure of note from the CSO is visitor expenditure and this is down 4pc, with all markets in retreat with the exception of the US.

There are three main reasons tourism is facing a much tougher year: Brexit; yes, the VAT hike; and weakened competitiveness.

Britain is Ireland’s single largest source market and weakened sterling and uncertainty around Brexit have dampened business considerably. Fáilte Ireland, the State tourism agency, has estimated a hard Brexit will cost Irish tourism €390m.

With Boris Johnson at Number 10, a bad Brexit seems ever more likely, and don’t forget that tourism is uniquely exposed as, since the Good Friday Agreement, it has been treated as an all-island sector when being promoted abroad.

The VAT hike added significant cost to Ireland’s 20,000 tourism and hospitality businesses. Paschal Donohoe in his budget speech estimated the VAT increase was an additional tax burden of €466m on the sector. Add this to the cost of a hard Brexit and you are getting close to a billion euro wallop to Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer. Ouch!

Like all business sectors, weakened competitiveness is also causing an additional strain. Not only is the tourism VAT rate in Ireland now the highest across the eurozone, but other business costs such as insurance, commercial water rates, labour and credit are all out of kilter with our competitors.

Too often in the past the tourism industry has been taken for granted and this would be a big mistake to repeat.

As we approach Budget 2020, now is the time for Government to improve Irish tourism’s competitiveness and invest strategically in supporting a key part of the national economy.

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh

Chief executive, Irish Tourism Industry Confederation

Brexit threatens exactly what it is trying to protect

History doesn’t repeat itself but historical situations do, or so it’s said.

Here we have Britain seeking to protect the Union by apparently rejecting the temporary backstop arrangement. Yet this could lead to a reunification on the island of Ireland, a reversal of the Anglo-Irish 1921 Treaty. Very interesting – or is it just politics?

Joe Harrison

Spanish Point, Co Clare

Wakey, wakey, Leo – progress is not for the early birds

Memo to Leo Varadkar: “Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something,” wrote author Robert Heinlein.

Mary Bourke

Address with editor

Take a seat to bring them down to earth – even Clooney

Seeing George Clooney seated on a loo in the movie ‘Money Monster’ recently reminded me of some words of wisdom from a friend many years ago.

He said that if you are somewhat overawed by another, you should imagine him or her in that somewhat undignified pose, seated on the loo. I must admit, however, that it didn’t quite bring George down to my level.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Take a dip in the sea to give yourself a wonderful lift

I have been sea swimming this summer nearly every day. The water is like a hot bath.

Even if you can’t swim, get in enough to get wet. Believe me, you will feel wonderful – the cheapest therapy going. Just be careful, the ocean is the boss. Enjoy.

Brian McDevitt

Glenties, Co Donegal

Gaeilge – the answer is right there in plain language

Tony Walsh queries why Gerrard Moran uses the medium of English to plead with his fellow citizens to embrace and not marginalise the Irish language.

The reason is simple. Presumably Mr Moran knows that had he written in Gaeilge, 97.5pc of the readership would not have a clue what he was writing about.

Paul Kelly

Skerries, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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