“Lots and lots of jobs” are under threat due to the Government’s “over-reliance” on tourist accommodation to house Ukrainian refugees.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) chief Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said more than one-fifth of Ireland’s tourism beds are now taken up by people fleeing the war.
Outside of that capital, that figure rises to 26%.
Mr O'Mara Walsh said there are now 62,000 Ukrainians living in Ireland.
He said there will be “huge knock-on consequences” for tourist towns across the country if the situation has not improved by the spring.
“It is not necessarily the accommodation sector I’m mainly concerned with,” he said. “It’s the downstream tourism businesses – it’s things like the restaurants, the tourist attractions and coach operators.
“Fáilte Ireland estimates that a tourist spends €1 on accommodation and €2.50 in ancillary services so if that income is going to be forgone, there is going to be massive problems in tourist towns right across the country.
“If a tourist can’t get a bed in a tourist town there will be no tourism activity in that town and there are lots and lots of jobs at stake.”
Mr O’Mara Walsh said the government must publish a comprehensive, transparent plan for housing refugees, which makes use of:
- Modular housing
- State institutions
- Vacant buildings
- Unused dwelling
- Local authority buildings
- Unused Garda stations
“I think the thing to remember is that this is not a two or three-month crisis,” he said. “This is going to be going on for, I imagine, at least two years.
“Even if the war magically ended tomorrow in Ukraine so much of the buildings and the housing is destroyed so there is nowhere for those poor refugees to go home to.
“They are going to be here for at least two years I imagine and the idea of sticking them constantly into hotels and guesthouses will just have a massive knock-on effect for the tourism industry.
“By the way, it is not the right place for people fleeing war to be – in a hotel bedroom day after day. So, the Government has to be much more ambitious and more creative.”
Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney warned that up to 80,000 Ukrainians may have arrived here by the end of the year.
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