The government has announced a wide-ranging new stimulus package to revive the economy as we deal with the continuing impact of COVID-19.
The package contains a range of measures that will have an impact on rural tourism, and so here’s a quick summary of the package measures that are relevant to tourism businesses. There are also some practical tips here for how we can all work together to get things back on track.
- Employment Wage Support Scheme: This scheme will now run until April 2021. The big change for rural tourism businesses is that this scheme will include seasonal staff and new employees.
- Restart Grant for all SMEs: The Restart Grant scheme has been running for a few months, but there’s been a change here that makes more businesses eligible. Crucially for rural tourism, B&Bs are among the businesses that will now be eligible for funding of up to €25,000 to help with the costs associated with re-opening and re-employing workers.
- Income tax relief for the self-employed: There are new measures to help people who are self-employed, and this is going to be of interest to the increasing number of people who are offering independent visitor experiences across rural Ireland. There’ll be income tax relief for self-employed people who have incurred losses in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.
- Business Adaptation Grant: If a business has costs involved in re-opening, there is now a €26m government fund for tourism and hospitality businesses. This will be administered by Fáilte Ireland, so make sure you are in the loop for its messaging.
- Rates waiver: There’s a €600m extension to the waiver for commercial rates.
- Other financial measures: A credit guarantee scheme will be in place and there will be tax refunds that allow for the early carry-back of trading losses. There are other financial measures around delaying payment on PAYE and VAT debts in the stimulus package too. Your accountant is probably the person best placed to help you make the most of these supports!
What is the ‘Stay and Spend’ Initiative?
Some eyebrows have been raised about the measures to stimulate spend between now and the end of the year. The temporary VAT cut later in the year is not as bold as some of the VAT-cutting schemes that are operating elsewhere in Europe, and the full details of the ‘Stay and Spend’ scheme haven’t been released yet.
But the measures that are coming in are all about helping tourism providers to make the most of the shoulder seasons and off-peak periods between now and next summer. It would be a mistake for people outside tourism to think that every business they see opening in some form now is going to survive until next year. We are going to need to squeeze as much benefit out of the time between now and next summer as we possibly can!
So, the scheme is trying to incentivise taxpayers to support tourism accommodation and food service providers during the off-peak season.
Any taxpayer who spends up to €625 on accommodation, food, and non-alcoholic drinks, between October 2020 and April 2021 will be able to claim back up to €125 through a tax credit.
This only applies to taxpayers – and this creates an opportunity for you. There are groups not included who will appreciate offers targeted at them: not just retired people but also people with disabilities, and carers, who often prefer to travel during less busy periods.
I’m seeing people with other specific holiday requirements, like a need for gluten-free food, finding it harder than usual to locate good-value, reliable offers too. Think about putting together packages that will draw attention to the great experience you can offer to these market segments between now and next summer.
What Other Business Supports are There?
Fáilte Ireland has set up a really comprehensive range of supports on its COVID website that can help you with everything from staffing to social media and destination marketing. Take a look! The excellent Tourism Space team are also running regular online discussions aimed at rural tourism businesses – it will be well worth your time to take part.
What Can I do to Incentivise Visits?
- Take another look at your website: does it show that you are open now and how much more of the year you will be open for? Or does it tell people when you will be back in action?
- Keep your Google listings up-to-date: This is often the first place poeple check whether or not you’re open and how to contact you.
- Re-assure on safety: Show people you are working well and safely with COVID restrictions in place. Have your guidelines clearly accessible on your website, but also show people using social media that people are having a great time with you now. A massive COVID banner that makes it sound like we are in the end times can be off-putting, so keep this message clear but unobtrusive!
- Be sure to offer value: It is more expensive to make sales at the moment, and you might not be able to make as many as you’re used to, but lots of people who don’t normally consider holidaying in Ireland are doing just that: good value now can help to make them regular visitors in future. For example, you could shout about the OPW rates for admission to Garnish Island being halved, or let people know about the great free experiences around and about your location.
- Shout about the quieter places: West Cork has never been more desirable as a destination for visitors, but that is putting a lot of pressure on hotspots that everyone has heard of, like Inchydoney and Gougane Barra, for example. Now is the time to shout about hidden gems and experiences that families or other groups can do without being crowded by others. Images of people kayaking by Bere Island this week got an amazing response: we have what people want but we need to show them it’s there and tell them how to access it!
- Help new experiences to shine: There are some great new paid visitor experiences around this year that give people a real taste of West Cork’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Just on the water, we have Dursey Boat Trips, Bantry Bay Charters,
Fastnet Cruises, and Bantry Bay Boat Hire. And then there are lovely coastal experiences like the seaweed baths that come to Snámh pier, picnic packages from Manning’s Emporium, and the Craft West Cork food truck in Rosscarbery that can make a day here amazing.
The visitor from outside won’t see these businesses as competing – they’ll just pick up on the idea that getting out on the water is a must-do here, that every day will be wonderful with lots of choices of things to do, and that West Cork is a brilliant place to experience the Wild Atlantic Way!
When you support businesses like these and like and share their images, you please your audience and help to create business for others too.
- Praise and review: Even if you don’t work in tourism, you can do your bit to help.
– Share your photos with the #makeabreakforit hashtag and you will be help West Cork businesses benefit from Fáilte Ireland’s big domestic campaign.
– Leave a TripAdvisor review that talks about the great experience you had and add in a bit of detail about how safe and well-managed it was.
– Earn your ‘Stay and Spend’ rebate in West Cork – If you are a taxpayer, earn as much of your tax rebate as possible locally. There are so many great places to spend in West Cork, and where else would you want to be?!
When people come to West Cork for a while, tourism businesses aren’t the only ones to benefit. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and craft producers, along with all of our other local businesses, start to feel the effects. We can all do our bit to make sure that this stimulus package produces the maximum benefit for our area so we can all recover together.
See Fáilte Ireland’s detailed guide to the July stimulus package for more details.