Mon, 26 Oct 2020

Ireland unleashes support for hotels, pubs and restaurants

Conor Trindle
15 Oct 2020, 17:47 GMT+10

DUBLIN, Ireland - The Irish government on Wednesday has announced a more than one million euro injection into the pandemic-depressed tourism industry across Ireland.

The funds will be used for a range of robust new funding streams and measures to ensure the survival and recovery of businesses and operations in the travel and tourism sectors overseen by the Department of Tourism.

"The diverse range of sectors served by this Department have been amongst those most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Employing many hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens, right across the country, these are the sectors that thrive when people congregate to enjoy their leisure time together. They were the first to close as a result of the pandemic, and they are likely to be amongst the last to return to full operations in the future. Our Cultural Institutions and theatres, our tourism destinations, pubs and restaurants, our sporting occasions and our Gaeltacht communities have all been severely hit since March. Many are shut, or are hugely curtailed, yet these activities are the very ones which bring us all joy, and which are crucial for all our physical and mental health," the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin said Wednesday.

"This Budget has now put in place a number of substantial measures to support and strengthen these sectors through 2021."

"Of course, we have been in constant dialogue with stakeholders and sectoral representatives throughout the crisis. Together with my officials, I have set up a number of different engagement channels, to ensure that we, as policy-makers, are listening closely to the voice of the cultural practitioner, the hospitality business-owner, the sporting bodies and our Gaeltacht communities. A wide range of targeted and imaginative government supports put in place since March have drawn on this interaction, and have helped sustain activity and employment in these sectors," Martin said.

"Budget 2021 has been informed by this ongoing strong engagement between my Department and the sectoral representatives. The strong suite of significant measures detailed below is a robust and targeted response to this crisis; it will support resilience and recovery, and will ensure that Ireland will thrive once more on the global stage in the fields of tourism, culture, sport and linguistic heritage, of which we are so proud."

"These are sector-specific measures, and are of course augmented and supplemented by the economy-wide business support and social welfare measures which were announced in the budget, and which my Cabinet colleagues, including Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, have already gone into further detail," the minister said.

"I recently received the Tourism Recovery Plan 2020-2023 which pointed to the need for urgent measures to ensure the survival of tourism businesses while at the same time sowing the seeds of recovery. Budget 2021 delivers on the immediate priorities identified by the Tourism Recovery Taskforce. I am pleased to have secured record additional funding for the tourism budget. This funding will help address the immediate concern of business survival while also looking to the future with focused training and digitalisation supports. Combined with the reduction of the VAT rate, the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme for businesses that have been very severely restricted by the public health measures, and the continued waiver of commercial rates the package of supports for tourism is a significant response to the existential impact of COVID-19."

Minister Martin added

"While tourism is struggling now, it was a driver of recovery in the past and we need to sustain core capacity in the industry to enable it to recover again."

The key features of the boost to the various sectors are as follows:

- New €55m support fund for strategic tourism businesses

- VAT on the sector reduced to 9%, will improve competitiveness and viability of businesses

- Hospitality, accommodation and arts businesses impacted by pandemic can get rebates of up to €5,000 a week under new Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS)

- New €50m support for live entertainment - a range of supports for live entertainment events to take place in 2021 in venues across the country, other measures to support music, and a new grant scheme for equipment

- €130m for the Arts Council a record level

- Over €78m funding allocation for Gaeltacht and Irish language sector up €14.8m on initial 2020 allocation

- Funding for TG4 up to €40.733m

- Sport Ireland allocated €104.5m up €36m

Martin reported that total funding for the culture sector will increase in 2021 by 70% compared with the initial 2020 allocation in Budget 2020. The funding will comprise €270m in current expenditure and €60.7m in capital investment, and reflects an acknowledgement by Government of the devastating impact that COVID-19 restrictions have had on the sector.

For the first time, the Government provides support for live entertainment in the amount of €50m. This will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector for the first time, and will support live entertainment in venues across the country, building on the Stimulus scheme announced in July. It will also see support for activities at community level leading to greater work opportunities for crew and venue workers nationwide. There will be further supports for music, building on the phenomenal demand for support under the July stimulus Music Scheme operated by First Music Contact. A scheme of capital grants for equipment will also operate in 2021. Combined with measures announced by the Minister for Finance, this will provide additional supports to a sector severely impacted by COVID-19.

Arts Council funding is up €50m from its initial 2020 allocation to €130m. This additional investment empowers the Arts Council to help artists, arts workers and arts organisations come through this crisis and play their part in the national recovery. It will ensure that events of the highest quality across all art forms can still reach the public in new and blended ways. This support will protect jobs and it will see thousands of artists enabled to create new work. This year, the Arts Council is providing support to a wider range of stakeholders impacted by the Pandemic. This increase in funding will allow the Arts Council to broaden its reach further and in particular to reach out to workers in the sector, especially those who would not previously have been beneficiaries of support from the Arts Council.

An allocation of €8m is made to the National Concert Hall to allow for the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra from RT. This will be a significant step towards the objective of enabling the orchestra to be established as a world class orchestra which will, with the NCH, provide a creative and imaginative programme strategy that will greatly enhance the offering of the combined organisation to the public.

Screen Ireland's funding will increase by €9m to €30.1m in 2021. The audiovisual industry has been one of the success stories of 2020, with on-screen success in the form of Normal People, but also its track record in maintaining output in the face of COVID-19. This record allocation will further support Screen Ireland at this critical time. In addition, the extension of the Section 481 regional uplift for an additional year is an important support and will further assist growth in the industry.

Additional capital funding will see progress in the ongoing programme of investment in our capital institutions including at the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland and the Crawford Art Gallery.

Decade of Centenaries increased funding to €5m to allow for the appropriate commemoration of the centenary of events leading to the foundation of the State.

Minister Martin said:

"100 years on from those events, I am pleased the Government has, in difficult circumstances, kept faith with our artists and creative communities upon whom we rely so much to sustain us through the greatest challenge of our generation.

I am confident that these measures will mean enhanced opportunities for everyone to experience the benefits of our artistic and cultural offerings in the widest sense in 2021."

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