Covid restrictions disproportionately impacting experience economy

October 08, 2020

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has said that ongoing Covid restrictions are disproportionately targeting Ireland’s internationally renowned ‘experience economy’, encompassing the tourism and hospitality sector and its diverse supply chain. Ireland’s containment measures remain exceptionally stringent in comparison to other EU countries and this is particularly so for this sector.   

The group is calling on NPHET to publish the data that is underpinning their recommendation to close Ireland’s experience economy.  This is happening at a time when internationally, countries have managed to keep their businesses in the experience economy and their borders open while at the same time managing the spread of the disease in communities.    

Ibec Director of Member Services, Sharon Higgins, said: “The experience economy underpins both the economic and social fabric of this country. The sector contributes €4.5 billion in wages, salaries and employment taxes every year and more than 330,000 people (1 in 5 private sector jobs) are either employed directly or supported directly by demand from the sector.   

“Businesses across the experience economy have proven over the past number of months that they can operate in a highly controlled, safe environment. Yet despite this, the industry finds itself operating essentially under Level 4 protocols currently, while being subjected to ongoing vague and seemingly changing criteria. 

“The industry understands that the need for phased restrictions may arise. However, affording only 24 hours-notice of such increased restrictions has potentially devastating cost implications for managing perishable stock and workforce planning, along with financial and psychological hardship for employees and employers alike,” Higgins said. 

“In the short-term, Budget 2021 must deliver financial support for those businesses in the experience economy who are struggling to stay afloat. This includes targeted financial support to specifically compensate for the losses associated with perishable products going off on foot of last-minute Government lockdown restrictions/closure notices; reductions in VAT and excise rates, extending waivers on commercial rates, embracing innovative sustainability, amongst others.” 

Ms. Higgins said: “As well as financial supports, communication between stakeholders in the sector is critical and this has been extremely poor to date. A social dialogue model that facilitates more engagement between stakeholders would dispel some of the uncertainty in the industry at present, enabling companies to be better informed as well as affording them the necessary time to prepare for any change. 

“It is evident that we must learn to ‘live’ more effectively with this virus in our communities so to speak. We need to protect our vulnerable people – those who are vulnerable to the virus but also those who need society to function for mental health, education and development and for businesses to complete in a global environment. 

“The availability of an appropriate level of critical care beds based on best international practice is central to this. Yet, we are currently at 6.5 beds per 100,000 versus Germany’s 29.2 according to recent figures. Addressing issues such as these, rather than shutting down portions of our economy for periods on end will stand better in the long-run to our capacity to overcome the challenges posed by this virus.”