In urging the Committee to give serious consideration to ways in which Government policy might support the sector it also called for the establishment of a taskforce to review the future of the pub.
Government support in enhancing the competitiveness of our tourism offer was also being sought through calls for the reversal of the excise on alcohol in Budget 2016 and retention of the 9% VAT rate.
Through LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keefe and VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, DIGI highlighted the contribution that the drinks and hospitality sector makes to Ireland’s tourist offering:
- The Irish pub is No 1 reason why people come to Ireland, while listening to music in an Irish pub No 1 reason tourists would return – Fáilte Ireland research
- Top quality tourist attractions like the Guinness Storehouse – Ireland’s most popular fee-charging visitor attraction, draw millions of visitors every year
- Newer attractions like the Cork Whiskey Way, the Irish Whiskey Trail and the Irish Whiskey Museum are exciting new developments in the sector
- Strong links between craft-food suppliers and publicans are driving a gastro- pub movement and ever-improving food offerings in the traditional pub.
- Micro-brewers and mini-distilleries are providing new and unique experiences to tourists.
The Group welcomed the Government’s decision not to increase excise in Budget 2015, stating that it will provide some stability for the sector which is already being seen in many pubs across the country this Christmas.
However, it pointed to Fáilte Ireland research which cites the price of alcohol – the highest in Europe – as one of the main contributors to why tourists would not visit Ireland again and it called on the Government to reverse excise in Budget 2016. 80% of the increase in the price of alcohol since 2011 has been directly attributable to VAT and excise increases.
“There are great potential synergies between the drinks and tourism sectors that should be supported,” Donall O’Keeffe explained, “Ireland is home to world class pubs that are distinctively Irish, warmly received by tourists and play a hugely positive role in differentiating Ireland as a destination. We want to work with the tourist industry to ensure that our world class pubs, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions continue to attract visitors to Ireland, supporting the Government’s growth targets for tourism. Fáilte Ireland’s latest annual tourism industry review predicts that levels of tourism will increase again next year.
“Last month the New York Times video about Ireland showcased our pubs and restaurants and tourist attractions like the Guinness Storehouse. Despite this, more often than not, state agencies do not adequately represent the sector in their promotional activity.
“As Failte Ireland also point out, competitiveness is a hugely important factor for overseas visitors and value-for-money in the hospitality sector is key in order to maintain visitor numbers. We need Government policy to support competitiveness in the sector. The 9% VAT rate has played a significant role in fostering our tourism sector while the decision not to increase excise in this year’s Budget was very much welcomed. However, the excise on a pint of stout is still 11 times more than excise on the same pint in Spain and six times more than in Portugal, leaving Irish businesses in the tourist space at a hefty disadvantage compared to their counterparts in other markets.”
Padraig Cribben added, “Rural pubs are one of the few ways we can drive tourists outside of urban centres to get a true full-Irish experience. There are over 8,000 pubs, hotels and restaurants across the country offering tourists good food, good music and most importantly the opportunity to meet Irish people and experience the welcome and warmth for which the Irish are famous. There are also exciting developments happening in the sector such as the growth in micro-breweries and mini-distilleries in many pubs and the increasingly high standard of food offerings in pubs.
“However the pub has come under huge pressure over the last few years. Supporting the rural pub has to be the focus for Government as it is essentially supporting our tourist offer. Today we are calling for the establishment of a taskforce on the future of the pub.”
The industry representatives also used the opportunity to reiterate that the industry is mindful of the issues surrounding the misuse of alcohol in the country. Misuse of alcohol is causing significant damage to the reputation of an industry which supports 92,000 jobs throughout the country and DIGI has highlighted that the industry wants to work with government to address these issues.
They reminded Committee Members that earlier this year the LVA and VFI joined with restaurants, hotels and independent off-licenses as well as drinks suppliers throughout the country in collectively pledging to work with government on the implementation of meaningful policy measures to combat alcohol misuse by addressing the sale of cheap alcohol, introducing a statutory ban on price-based advertising and introducing statutory codes to regulate the merchandising of alcohol.