The Government’s failure to roll out a recovery plan for Irish tourism will see business “fall off a cliff” next month, according to the Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Mr O’Leary said the Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has “done nothing” to incentivise tourism from the UK and Europe as international travel reopens.
He said Ryanair was moving connectivity out of Ireland to places like Italy, Sweden, Latvia and Morocco because those countries offered significant supports and recovery incentives as well as lower airport fees and charges.
He said outbound air traffic from Ireland has “recovered very strongly” since international travel reopened – but warned that “what hasn’t recovered and what hasn’t been stimulated is inbound traffic back into Ireland from our biggest markets - which are the UK and continental Europe.”
“There has been this myth perpetrated through the last number of months particularly among the chattering classes that staycationers would rescue Irish tourism,” he said.
“Now we fully accept that they will fill hotels in the west of Ireland during July and August but once the schools reopen that business falls off a cliff.
“The staycationers won’t stay in hotels in Dublin anyway – and Dublin is by far our biggest hotel market and visitor market – for that we need UK visitors and European visitors.”
Mr O’Leary said a plan should have been put in place months ago to encourage people from the UK and Europe to return to Ireland.
“We need a plan now,” he said. "Irish hotels are going to be empty come September. The Dublin hotels are already operating at about 10% occupancy – in the month of August.
“We need to get our hotels back to work and our restaurants back to work in September and October – when the staycationers will have disappeared.
“Nobody in this Government has a plan, yet the Portuguese, the Italians, the Eastern European countries are all out there lowering taxes, lowering airport fees, coming up with incentives and they are hoovering up the traffic recovery.”
He said the number of passengers carried by Ryanair increased from one million in April to ten million in July.
“We have increased our traffic ten-fold but most of that traffic is taking place to the tourism countries of Spain, Italy, Portugal and elsewhere and it is bypassing Ireland because we have a transport minister who sits on his hands doing nothing,” he said.
The Ryanair CEO said he expects passenger traffic to be back to between 90% and 100% of pre-COVID levels in most European markets by October – with the “notable exception of Ireland.”
“We are taking delivery of 60 new aircraft from Boeing this winter and none of those new aircraft are being allocated to Ireland,” he said.
“We have a transport minister on an island on the periphery of Europe who does nothing about our connectivity to the rest of Europe.”
He noted that Aer Lingus is also moving planes out of Ireland – and warned that the “huge challenge” for Irish tourism is that US traffic is unlikely to return for even longer.
“We are not going to have the same volume of American passengers. They are not going to come certainly in time for 2022,” he said.
“The staycationers with kids have all gone back to school in September, they have disappeared – what are we going to do for our tourism industry here for the rest of this winter and the summer of 2022?
“As usual, Eamon Ryan doesn’t have a plan, has taken no action and has been sitting on a recovery plan – which was submitted to him almost 13 months ago – and he has done nothing.”
Minister Ryan previously noted that the Government has given the aviation industry around €300m supports, including €18m for regional airports and a €50m package for the DAA that could be used to reduce charges.
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