Welcome to my Presidents report for September 2021. It is hard to believe that the kids are back to school after what feels like an 18 month long summer. I hope you got to enjoy some quality time at some stage although I fully understand the difficulties in trying to spend time with family at present considering the difficulties and challenges we face within our businesses. Since our reopening on July 26th it has proven to be an extremely busy domestic market across the country. The biggest challenge reported from our members was staff retention, hiring and training. We have called for a national tourism and hospitality training body and immediate and equitable funding of culinary apprenticeships as outlined in the apprenticeship plan.

We have engaged and are continuing to engage with all relevant bodies on this enormous issue, it is so urgent, the future of the industry depends on immediate actions such as streamlining and prioritising work permits and the visa process to get skilled staff into the workplace as soon as possible. The industry is certainly struggling with an exasperated pre pandemic problem of skills shortages throughout the sector. Many businesses have to remain closed for up to 3 days to give employees required days off. The cost of recruitment is also a heavy burden on businesses trying to survive.

The key date proposed from Government to loosen the majority of restrictions other than the wearing of masks is now October 22nd. Over 90% of the population will be inoculated which will mean vaccination certs will no longer be required upon entry to our businesses. We are still awaiting updated guidelines from Failte Ireland so we can plan Xmas parties and events within our businesses. The removal of the max of 6 persons is vital for group bookings. This is normally a time of year that we can get robust planning and procedures for the Xmas period in place and inform our staff what is happening for the festive period. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of publishing these guidelines as soon as possible.

We are calling for a clear and transparent plan which includes a detailed set of survival supports that will see businesses survive winter, the most challenging time of year. These supports include a continuation of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), a waiver of commercial rates must be considered to at least March of next year. The 9% VAT rate should remain until 2025 to support businesses now and also tender for future international tourism which will ensure our competitiveness. A reviewed stay and spend scheme that will encourage customers to eat out, this reviewed voucher system must be redeemable at source to have any effect for both customer and business. An extension of these survival supports until next march at least and hopefully we will see more stable and familiar periods of trade when our tourism sector reignites in 2022. This set of supports are vital to many businesses that are still struggling to make ends meet.

That brings my monthly update to an end, I look forward to next month’s newsletter.

Best Wishes, Mark McGowan -President