Hotel bed shortages as a result of the challenges in securing accommodation for refugees have led to 10,000 tourism jobs being displaced, a Government analysis suggests.
According to figures given to Ministers last week analysing the situation in 20 towns around the country, the greatest impact is being felt in popular tourist destinations such as Killarney, where the impact on revenue to April this year is estimated at more than €100 million – with 2,722 jobs displaced.
In Bundoran, 465 jobs have been displaced, while in Westport the estimate is for 898 roles, with another 874 in Tralee. About one third of accommodation beds are now contracted to the State, largely to host those fleeing the war in Ukraine and seeking asylum from elsewhere.
Tourism body Fáilte Ireland is understood to have drawn up options for Covid-type supports for affected businesses in a paper sent to Government in recent months.
It’s understood the initial options included targeted local authority rate exemptions, or schemes similar to the government’s Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) for firms with 60 per cent and 30 per cent revenue losses respectively. A Fáilte Ireland scheme could also be developed for other firms, including those without premises, or charities or community groups running tourism businesses, such as attractions or activity providers.
Eligibility would be determined by the drop in 2023 compared to the same quarter in 2019.
However, several senior Government sources downplayed the idea that the Coalition was minded to move immediately on the issue and cautioned that while the accommodation situation was serious, there was an element of pre-budget manoeuvring going on already. It is expected options for supports will be developed in advance of the budget.
At a meeting of the Cabinet subcommittee dealing with refugee accommodation last Thursday, Ministers were told that while it was too early to be certain about impacts, consideration should be given to mitigation measures.
The Government would have to be mindful of strict EU rules governing State aid to companies, but Ministers were told the scale of the impact in response to the humanitarian crisis “could provide grounds to justify State intervention in support of critical businesses that are integral to the long-term functioning of a normal tourism ecosystem”.
The analysis shown to Ministers at the meeting of last week’s refugee accommodation subcommittee shows that beds contracted to host refugee and asylum seekers account for 85 per cent of capacity in Leitrim, the highest in the country. In Longford the figure is 71 per cent, and in Offaly, 59 per cent. In tourist destination Donegal, it is 53 per cent. Overall the average is 28 per cent, rising to 34 per cent when Dublin is excluded.
It comes as Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman is expected to bring a report to Cabinet on his department’s expenditure in the first three months of 2023.
Costs borne by the department in relation to supports for refugees from Ukraine came to €266 million in that period, while expenditure on international protection for people from other countries came to €144 million – some €410 million overall.
It is understood that expenditure was above expectations, but reflects costs from January to March, when the number of people arriving in Ireland was higher.
A spokesman for Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said she “continues to raise with Government colleagues her concerns about the potential possible impacts on tourism businesses of a significant portion of national hotel stock no longer being available to tourism due to humanitarian accommodation needs”.
She has asked her officials and Fáilte Ireland to research which parts of the country are most affected by the loss of tourism accommodation and “assess what mitigation measures could be considered”.