Adventure holiday companies anxious at delay in Fáilte Ireland guidelines

Adventure tourism operators are growing increasingly anxious over a delay in publishing promised Failte Ireland guidelines on safe re-opening during the Covid-19 pandemic. uidelines had been promised last month in advance of an anticipated extension of travel limits, and some outdoor pursuits operators have already opened for business. Adventure activity, which has been valued at EUR1.2bn annually, has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in the Irish tourism market for both overseas and domestic visitors. However, it is among the sectors hard-hit by the pandemic.

The Irish Association for Adventure Tourism (IAAT), an all-island body representing 165 members, said while it commends Failte Ireland's guideline initiative, "we could have done without a two-week delay". IAAT chairman Maurice Whelan stressed that his organisation welcomed the level of consultation with the sector which Failte Ireland has undertaken. "We have been suggesting to our members to wait for the Failte Ireland sectoral advice, rather than go ahead and open," he said.

"But we can understand why some would go ahead - given that guidelines drawn up the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) are already available." Failte Ireland said it was "producing very detailed sector-specific operational guidelines for tourism businesses", which are "currently being finalised" in collaboration with "industry bodies, relevant State agencies, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and wider government". "The robust scrutiny of the guidelines is necessary to ensure industry and the general public have full confidence in the ability of the tourism sector to reopen safely," a Failte Ireland spokeswoman said.

"Our consumer research states that health and safety protocols in premises and 'safe breaks' are emerging as very strong themes, showing these issues are important to people as they plan domestic holidays in line with the government roadmap," she added. Meanwhile, a group of surf schools has expressed "delight" at being able to re-open, subject to Covid-19 plans submitted to governing body Irish Surfing. The Irish Surf School Covid Safety Working Group says safety would be "the number one priority" for groups of up to eight people.

However, the group says a majority of surf school owners cannot access the wage subsidy scheme for their employees. "For many, this is going to delay reopening - meaning their 2020 season will only be four or five weeks long. Seasonal businesses depend on their summer income to survive for the rest of the year," spokesman Jack Tim Murphy said.

The working group, which says it is liaising with Sport Ireland, Irish Surfing and the IAAT to plan for the industry's "survival and recovery", has called for extension of the wage subsidy scheme and a lowering of the VAT rate. It says that surf lessons are treated as a sports activity, and schools are subject to a 23pc VAT rate, when they should be classified as tourism. National governing bodies for outdoor activities have drawn up and published respective "return to sport" protocols for their areas.

Kayaking has returned in a limited format, as has sailing, but rock climbing is proving more challenging. Sign up for our free travel newsletter! Like what you're reading?

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Irish Independent

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