500 businesses, trade groups in open letter to Taoiseach

Nearly 500 businesses and trade associations involved in the tourism, hospitality and events industries have signed an open letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin calling for the sector to be allowed reopen or reopen to a greater extent than currently from December. The signatories say they recognise that although it will not be business as usual this Christmas, it does not mean they cannot open in a smart, planned and sustained way, as they are regulated and have proven responsible through the Covid-19 crisis. Among the groups that signed the letter are Drinks Ireland, the Irish Hotels Federation, the Licensed Vintners Association, the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Ibec, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, the Event Industry Association of Ireland and the Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions as well as 471 individual businesses. Together they highlight how the so-called experience sector employs 330,000 people directly and indirectly in Ireland and is worth €4.5bn in wages, salaries and employment taxes to the economy each year. The letter also claims the sector can play a crucial role in the economic recovery after the pandemic, but only if firms survive. Critical of the Government’s response to the pandemic, the signatories say its actions have disproportionately impacted the sector, without proper evidence to back those actions up. They warn that the impact of these decisions has had and will go on having major long-term consequences for businesses across the country. The firms and organisations pledge that if they are allowed to resume trading next month, they will play their role in ensuring Covid-19 rules are strictly adhered to. Letting them open in a sustained way but with restrictions next week would provide what may end up being a final lifeline for many firms in the sector, they argue. Those who signed the letter also claim that available research and data, internationally and at home, provides no clear evidence for the sector to be treated disproportionately with regards decisions to open or close, compared with other parts of the economy. “If regulated hospitality venues remain closed, it’s reasonable to conclude that people will be driven to unregulated environments and households, where Covid-19 measures may be ignored,” the letter states. The businesses and associations also seek an approach which protects our health but also enables the experience economy to operate and criticise the absence of a reopening plan. “We are also concerned about the continued lack of clarity from Government and call for comprehensive engagement with the business community going forward,” they argue. “The failure to provide certainty around decisions must stop, and we need clear plans that our sector can follow.” Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation has repeated its call on the Government to include hotels in its plan for reopening society on 1 December. “Hotels can help to ensure a safer reopening thereby minimising the risk of increased infection rates,” said Tim Fenn, chief executive of the IHF. “Hoteliers are calling for people to be allowed to travel outside their county and for in-door dining in hotels, including for non-residents, to be permitted as part of the reduced restrictions from 2nd December.” He added that Irish hotels are proven to provide safe, controlled environments. “This five week trading period around Christmas can act as a life buoy in terms of sustaining many hotels for the early few months of next year so it is imperative for hotels to be able to open as fully as possible for the benefit of their guests and their teams,” Mr Fenn said. Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland says all pubs need to be allowed open for indoor drinking and dining in December, without distinction between the different types of pubs. Padraig Cribben told Morning Ireland that December is an important one for the trade and while members realise that December 2020 is different to a normal year, people are going to socialise. He said the Government must ask themselves do they want people socialising in a controlled setting or unregulated domestic environments. Mr Cribben said there is quite a bit of pent up demand for social and the broader that demand is spread, the better it would be for public health. The distinction between food and non-food pubs is not a good idea in terms of fairness and of spreading the load for social demand, he stated. He said it was important that the Government, and not NPHET, make the decision because NPHET has already indicated that it would advise against pubs re-opening. Article Source: 500 businesses, trade groups in open letter to Taoiseach – RTE – Will Goodbody Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

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