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Connacht Tribune

Thousands of Galway tourism jobs under threat

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More than 20,000 workers in the tourism industry in Galway are at risk of permanently losing their jobs without immediate Government intervention, hoteliers have warned.

Galway hoteliers have proposed that local authority commercial rates and water charges on hotels and guesthouses be waived for 12 months, and for VAT to be cut to zero percent for at least a year, as part of a package of measures to save hospitality businesses.

The industry estimates that 85% of hotels nationally are closed, and most of the 260,000 employees temporarily out of work.

In Galway, tourism supported 20,900 jobs and generated €910m in local revenues before this crisis, according to John Ryan, Chair of the Galway branch of the Irish Hotels Federation.

Mr Ryan, owner of the Ardilaun Hotel in Taylor’s Hill, said hoteliers appreciate that the country is experiencing the greatest health crisis in living memory and that significant resources are being committed to address the overriding issue of public health.

However, he warned delays in implementing measures to save tourism will increase the risks.

As well as a twelve-month ‘holiday’ for hoteliers for bills such as water charges and commercial rates, the IHF has asked that VAT is reduced to zero for 12 months at least until the industry has recovered.

They have also called for measures to assist cash flow, business interruption grants and supports for seasonal workers who do not qualify for Covid-19 payments.

Mr Ryan pointed out that many hotels were willing to provide assistance to essential services where required by the HSE and other Government departments.

He said that mitigating the impact of Covid-19 must go hand-in-hand with ensuring that Irish people have a viable economy to return to in the coming months.

“The health and wellbeing of all citizens is intertwined with the economy, and people will need livelihoods after the crisis is over. Tourism supports 11% of total employment nationally, and 70% of these jobs are outside of Dublin which highlights its vital role in spreading employment opportunities and prosperity across the entire country,” he said.

“Irish tourism has been a key driver of job growth over the last decade, and it is essential that our industry remains to the fore of the national economic agenda, including in negotiations on the Framework for Government.

“Whilst discussions are ongoing, further measures are now urgently required to protect tourism livelihoods and address the enormous challenges we face.

“These challenges are existential for many tourism businesses and of a significantly greater scale than anything experienced during the last financial crisis.”

Mr Ryan said most hotels and guesthouses are closed, but they want an urgent response from Government so that they are in a position to resume once restrictions are lifted.

“Tourism and hospitality businesses are now working to secure the necessary funds to survive and restart,” he said.

“That process involves making predictions around the period of closure and the length of time it will take for various categories of revenue to recover. Government controlled costs such as local authority rates, VAT and employer’s PRSI are having an enormously negative impact on viability scenarios during the recovery period.

“We recognise that the Government is being forced to increase the level of national debt to fund the health crisis and must protect the exchequer to fund ongoing services.

“However, these urgent measures are required now to help our industry recover and play its part in ensuring that the Irish economy will be strong enough to service post Covid-19 national debt,” Mr Ryan added.

Connacht Tribune

Locals in fundraising drive to protect some of Connemara’s finest beauty spots

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The world-famous beaches Gurteen Bay and Dogs Bay will disappear unless work is carried out immediately to save them for the next generation.
A local conservation committee has been set up which is fundraising to carry out the work in September. They plan to remove the old fencing from the headland, which is dangerous for people and animals.
They will also want to install new fencing on the headland to keep animals off the sand dunes and to have clear access pathways to people to enjoy the dunes without causing them damage.
Sustainable chestnut fencing is then needed to re-establish the sand dunes and to save them from further collapse.
Finally the hope to replant marram grass to further stabalise the dunes.
Kieran Mullen, owner of the Gurteen Bay caravan and camping park, explained that the work was so urgent that they cannot wait another year to carry it out.
“Atlantic storms are becoming more frequent and powerful. If they find a weakness in the dunes a one metre gap is created. The next storm that widens to two and three metres and soon they’re gone forever,” he remarked.
“I know people might say I’m doing this because they’re part of my livelihood but these beaches are key to the bigger economy of Connemara. Everyone’s tied into tourism here – the shops, the builders. It only takes one influencer to post a picture on Instagram and the next week the place is packed.”
His father Pat, along with James Conneely and Joe Rafferty, undertook extensive projects such as planting marram grass, erecting fencing and stone gabions along one section of Dogs Bay beach back in the 1990s. They managed to protect and regenerate part of a highly degraded dune system.
“If it wasn’t for the huge amount of work they did back then, the beaches wouldn’t be here today. There was an Italian electrical company who came in and took away 50 tonnes of sand and my father stopped them at the gate and made them drop it off.
“They filmed Into The West here and the film donated some money to the beach and that’s how they paid for a lot of the work.”
The committee is meeting with planners to secure an exemption on planning for the work.
“Time is not on our side so that’s why we’ve gone ahead to raise the money and hope to get it done in September when the place is quieter.”
Both beaches, located outside Roundstone, regularly make the list of top 100 beaches of the world by travel guides.

To make a donation, visit GoFundMe page.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway passengers are all smiles at Shannon!

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Shannon Airport
Shannon Airport

The smiles on the faces at Shannon Airport very much told its own story this week – with passengers taking to skies as the easing of restrictions and the first day of the European Digital COVID Certificates took effect.

And it wasn’t just the joy of travel starting to resume that lifted spirits at the airport but also the announcement by Ryanair of a new once-weekly service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) to commence on August 7 – the third new service announcement for Shannon Airport over recent weeks.

There was a real sense of excitement as passengers of all ages became very much at ease with the heightened public safety measures in a ‘back-to-the-future’ day for the West of Ireland gateway airport.

There were reunions as inbound flights arrived but also a palpable degree of anticipation as others got set to depart on the earliest flight out of the airport today, the 7:10am flight to Gatwick.

Among those boarding was Clarenbridge native Claire Tomlin and her husband Jake, together with their three children, including their twins who turn a year old next week.

“It’s been amazing to get back. The kids saw their grandparents for the first time and their cousins and aunties and uncles, so it was fantastic,” said Claire.

“Shannon is just so convenient for us because it’s only about 40 minutes’ drive. So, it just makes everything a lot easier in terms of getting to and from places with little ones. So, yeah, Shannon is a great resource for us. Really, really good. We hope to be able to go back more and more.”

It was smiles all around for Shannon Airport staff as they got back to doing what they do best. “Well, today is a great day because you can see the atmosphere around the place, people are at ease here and they’re glad to be back, they’re glad to get up in the sky again,” said Shannon Duty Free Sales Associate Helen Quinlivan.

“It’s great to see the excitement. People are really looking forward to going back and seeing their loved ones and they’re very at ease.”

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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A man lies on a bed of nails at the opening of Galway Shopping Centre, Headford Road, on October 26, 1972

1921

Silence is golden

Leaders on both sides have stated that the best assistance the country can give in the making of peace is to keep silence.

During the past week there has been a great deal of speculation, most of it harmless enough, as, for instance, the enterprising American journalist’s “exclusive” on the first meeting of the British Premier and the President of the Irish Republic; much of it positively mischievous, as the case of the efforts of a certain journal, which has grown hoary in the reputation for throwing in the apple of discord, to anticipate failure in advance.

Our American colleague was on surer and on safer ground when he told of how de Valera and Lloyd George met.

“Mr. Lloyd George,” he cabled, “was sitting at his desk when the Irish President entered. For just a minute these two gazed fixedly at one another. Then the British Premier walked across the intervening space and shook de Valera by the hand. He led him to a seat where they sat side by side. The atmosphere was tense. They faced one another. Then Lloyd George reached down for a box of cigars. But the Irish President is of Spartan mould. He neither permits himself to drink nor smoke. He politely but firmly waved the box away. Mr. Lloyd George, however, selected and lighted a Havana, and as the smoke curled upwards the atmosphere became decidedly easier!”

Good planning

The wise and practical man always lays by a store against the time when supplies will be scarce. One of the most serious effects of the prolonged drought is the scarcity of supplies of fodder for cattle-feeding during the coming winter and spring.

The hay crop is not more than half the average yield. The corn crop is far below normal. Turnips in many districts are a partial failure. We have frequently emphasised the importance of growing catch-crops to supplement other feeding stuffs raised on the farm, but it is only under circumstances such as the present that their utility is brought home to farmers. Owing to the early harvest, a larger area than is usual can and should be put down this season. This would make good, to some extent, at least, the shortage of hay and other feeding-stuffs.

The demonstration plots laid down by the County Committee of Agriculture have shown that catch-crops, such as vetches and rye as well as other mixtures, can be successfully grown in all parts of County Galway.

We would urge on farmers the desirability – nay, the necessity – of procuring seed and making early preparation for the sowing of an increased area of catch-crops this season.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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