State agencies will spend €82 million next year on luring holidaymakers back to the Republic in a bid to revive its ailing tourist industry.
Tough Covid travel bans combined with a delayed reopening inflicted €13.4 billion worth of damage on hospitality businesses in 2020-21, according to the Irish Tourist Industry Council.
The Government will boost the Tourism Marketing Fund by €35 million next year to €82 million, as part of an overall €288.5 million spend earmarked in Budget 2022.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martinsaid on Wednesday that promotional spending would focus on key traditional markets, the UK and US.
Ms Martin said she saw no evidence that the Government’s tough stance on travel, including widely criticised hotel quarantines, had damaged the Republic’s reputation as a holiday destination with travellers from these countries.
“They were shocked at how good our vaccination rate was, that was a major selling point, particularly in the US,” she added.
The Minister noted that renewed efforts to draw tourists back here would work alongside moves to restore vital air routes lost during the pandemic.
The Government has pledged €90 million to aid airports in offering discounts and rebates to airlines who restore services or launch new ones.
The overall allocation also includes €50 million to provide ongoing support to tourism businesses to allow them to survive until next summer, when Government hopes inbound travel will recover.
Ms Martin said that the Republic would host American college football games regularly, beginning next year to help boost the sector.
This will be one of several steps, including funding to allow staff to add to their skills, digital development and local festivals, which the department hopes will support domestic tourism.
Travel restrictions meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 wiped out about 80 per cent of tourism, according to some estimates. The industry will generate some €2.4 billion this year, compared to more than €10 billion before the pandemic.
Lockdowns shut hotels, restaurants, pubs and other businesses central to the sector.
“The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the tourism industry,” said Ms Martin.
She added that the Government hoped to rebuild the industry to ensure that its benefits were more evenly spread across the country and throughout the year.
Ms Martin said her department was working on a new tourism policy that would set out plans for the industry “to 2030 and beyond”.