Scale of tourism sector’s decimation unprecedented, hotels chief says

Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, president of the Irish Hotels Federation, said tourism represented one in 10 of all jobs in Ireland prior to the pandemic

The scale of the decimation inflicted on the tourism industry by Covid-19 has been unprecedented, the president of the Irish Hotels Federation has said.

Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said it was important that the industry prepares itself for reopening once the public health restrictions are eased.

She made the remarks at the launch on Friday of two new skills programmes for employees of the hospitality and tourism sector by Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris and Junior Minister Niall Collins.

The programmes are designed to assist the hospitality and tourism sectors with the challenges caused by Covid-19 and to ensure they are ready for the reopening of the sectors.

The programmes have been developed by Solas and the Education and Training Boards in consultation with the Irish Hotels Federation and Failte Ireland.

One of the programmes aims to develop team leaders, while the other is designed to develop supervisory management capability.

Both are free of charge.

“Prior to the pandemic, tourism represented one in 10 of all jobs in Ireland and as a society we’ve been greatly affected and it’s been very much felt in our blood in the tourism industry as well,” Ms Fitzgerald Kane said.

“It’s important to note 70 per cent of the jobs were outside of Dublin. In many cases, communities are wholly built on tourism.

“The scale of the decimation has been unprecedented.”

But she said the new skills initiative would bring a “great chink of light” to those in the industry.

“It’s a time to reimagine all of our businesses and reimagine our skills sets,” she said.

“It gives a great sense of purpose to our community that need that support right now.”

She added that it was about having something timely and building capacity for when the industry does reopen.

Mr Harris said given the sectors were effectively closed, it was now an opportune time for businesses to plan for the future and plan for the rebuilding and reopening of the sectors.

“There is no doubt Covid-19 has caused havoc for everyone in their lives,” the minister said.

“It’s fair to say it has had an extremely negative impact on the hospitality and tourism sector.”

The Fine Gael TD added: “The sector has temporarily had to close and I want to ensure we use this time to support the sector in preparing for when they can resume business.

“The hospitality and tourism sectors are vital to the Irish economy and we must support it to recover and grow.”

The upskilling opportunities will be rolled out across the country in each Education and Training Boards from March.

The first has begun in Limerick with 30 people participating.

Mr Collins said: “Tourism and hospitality fell off a cliff once Covid hit and once the restrictions came in and it has impacted communities in all shapes and forms.”

He added: “This is a really exciting opportunity for people who have temporarily lost their jobs to learn new skills and prepare for the return of their sectors.

“We need our tourism and hospitality sectors to be ready for the challenges post-Covid and to ensure they can remain sustainable in the future.”


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