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Battle to save summer begins

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GOOD TO BE BACK Eilish Coakley and her daughter Cliodhna from boutique Collette on Shop Street in Westport celebrated their re-opening after the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions yesterday (Monday) morning. Pic: Paul Mealey

Council aims to capitalise on ‘pent-up demand’ from domestic tourists

Anton McNulty

Mayo County Council is to launch a tourism marketing task force to feed into the ‘pent-up demand’ from Irish people to go on holidays this summer.
The deferred tourism season will finally get underway on June 29, with hotels and restaurants due to reopen and all in-country travel restrictions due to be lifted after the months of lockdown due to Covid-19.
With the foreign tourism market expected to be non-existent in 2020, John Magee, Director of Services with Mayo County Council and Head of Local Enterprise Office Mayo, says the domestic market is crucial to save the tourism industry.
“In 2018, there was €104 million spent by overseas visitors in Co Mayo, and we know that will be significantly reduced this year. But more importantly, there was €114 million spent by the domestic market in Mayo in relation to the tourism sector, and this is the battleground at the moment,” he told yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council.
Mr Magee added that since the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions were brought forward by the Government, there has been a rise in enquiries for domestic holidays and Mayo had to ensure it was ready to capitalise on this.
“We know there is very significant pent-up demand from Irish people who want to go on holidays, and we, along with Fáilte Ireland and others, will do everything we can to ensure Mayo is putting its hand up.
“This is where we need to remind people of the quality of the tourism product … The idea of remoteness and social distancing in the context of a county the size of ours with a very rural tourism product is a competitive opportunity we have [and] intend to leverage.”
In order to tap into this market, the council will be working with Fáilte Ireland in rolling out a county tourism taskforce to co-ordinate a marketing inititive and providing supports to the sector.

Schemes challenged
Mayo’s economy is heavily reliant on the tourism and hospitality sector. According to Magee,  research by the North West Regional Assembly indicated that 49.7 percent of commercial units in Mayo are operating in sectors likely to be worst affected by Covid-19.
A number of retial outlets re-opened yesterday and the message from the meeting was shop local including online.
John Magee also gave Mayo County Council an outline of the various supports available to businesses affected by the Covid-19 restrictions and the help that the Mayo Local Enterprise Office (LEO) can provide.
However, while praising the role of LEO staff in assisting businesses, Achill-based councillor Paul McNamara felt the financial support available to businesses will not save them.
“They are not good enough to save businesses the way I see these schemes being implemented,” he said. He explained that a business person who qualified for €2,500 under the Business Continuity Scheme was left with €900 after paying for a health-and-safety mentor and a financial mentor.
“That is a total disgrace … those payments are just paper being moved around; they are not helping people at all. It is my opinion, and [that of] any business person I have talked to, that these schemes need major overhaul if they are going to bail out businesses,” he said.
Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn said that while Cllr McNamara made some valid points, he defended the roll-out of the schemes, saying that the current Covid situation was changing from week to week. He argued that the Business Continuity Scheme was brought in to help people who did not have the necessary expertise and never designed as a business grant.
The issue of social distancing was also raised at the meeting, with claims that the two-metre rule would cut the capacity of gastro pubs by up to 60 percent if it were to remain. Cllr Cyril Burke called for the guideline to be reduced to one metre, especially in the context of pubs and restaurants.

Mayo Covid-19 cases stagnate
Mayo has now gone over a week without reporting a single new case of Covid-19, writes Edwin McGreal.
The last new case announced in the county was on May 30 last. As of Sunday night last, the figure for the county remained on 570 cases.
Such figures have heightened hopes in the county of an ability to return to some level of normality.
However, an open letter signed by over 1,000 academics and scientists yesterday (Monday) afternoon has called on the Government to revisit its stance on gradually easing lockdown.
The letter says restrictions should continue until the virus has been completely eliminated and that living alongside it means constraining the economy for longer.