The Government has been called on to urgently intervene to safeguard 100,000 Irish tourism sector jobs at “imminent risk” due to Covid-19.
The Irish Hotels Federation said the sector was facing an exceptionally grim outlook and needed additional government supports in the upcoming Budget.
It comes after new figures from the Central Statistics Office showed the number of overseas visitors to Ireland plummeted by more than 80% year on year.
Some 363,600 people arrived in Ireland from overseas in August, this represented a 60% increase compared to the 227,300 people who travelled into the country in the previous month.
But the statistics showed that overseas travel remained “dramatically lower” than the same period last year when more than 2.25 million people arrived in the country. Year on year it was a drop of 84%.
There was also a similar decrease in the number of people departing the country. Some 328,200 people departed in August, compared to more than 2.19 million departures in August last year.
CSO statistician Gregg Patrick said overseas travel continued to recover in August, compared to July, but it was only a fraction of the overseas travel in August of last year.
“This illustrates the continuing and dramatic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on international travel to and from Ireland,” he said.
The Irish Hotels Federation said while the “true impact” on tourism was even more stark than the figures suggested as the number of people who arrived in the country included essential and non-tourism travel.
The group said Ireland’s tourism sector had been “completely wiped out” since March and that the situation had been compounded by a dramatic drop in domestic hotel booking as the sector entered a “quasi-lockdown” because of county restrictions in Dublin and Donegal.
IHF chief executive Tim Fenn said that existing supports were totally inadequate for the tourism industry given the current restrictions.
Prior to Covid-19, he said tourism supported 270,000 livelihoods, one in 10 of all Irish jobs but that an estimated 100,000 jobs of these have been lost so far this year and a further 100,000 are at immediate risk without substantial sector specific supports being put in place.
“A severely devastated Irish tourism sector would be a major loss to Ireland’s economy and society for many years to come. This can and must be avoided,” he said.
“Our industry is facing a very difficult number of months ahead with many tourism businesses in severe difficulty.
“Urgent sector specific measures are now required from the Government to support tourism businesses and safeguard thousands of jobs.
“This must include enhanced employment subsidies, a reduction in tourism VAT, extended waiver of local authority rates and greater access to banking finance.”