Fine Gael councillor Mary Howard has won the support of Clare County Council for her call to back the hospitality industry’s Support Your Local campaign.

Cllr Howard said the sector provides employment for 6,682 people in 291 pubs, 18 hotels, 60 restaurants, 72 off-licences, 9 wholesalers and 3 producers. They pay €141.6 million in wages and generate a tourism spend in Clare of €265m.

The hospitality sector is a key driver of economic activity which impacts on every town and village. Cllr Howard believes the sector must have support if it is to remain sustainable into the future.

The Fine Gael councillor insists that Ireland’s excise tax is 150% higher than 24 of the other 27 EU states while the VAT rate is also high at 23% and this is adversely affecting one of Ireland’s leading sectors and largest employers, especially in rural Ireland.

Mary Howard said she was contacted by DIGI, the Drinks Industry Group, which consists of the Licenced Vintners Association, the Vintners Federation, Irish Hotels Federation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland.  DIGI was concerned that the negative effects of Brexit were impacting on the hospitality sector.

She said that by the middle of summer the reduction of tourists from the UK was evident, with a loss of almost 7%- approx. 105,000 fewer visitors from the UK.  “This is a frightening statistic as we usually enjoy UK visitors throughout the twelve months of the year. UK visitors account for 40% of tourists to Ireland,” said Mary Howard.

She added that the hospitality sector has a high growth factor in Ireland, driving investment, innovation and job creation, with distilleries and microbreweries being created which are valuable in terms of exports and tourism. She urged colleagues to support the call for an excise reduction in the budget to support this sector and maintain the contribution it makes to the economic, social and cultural fabric of Ireland.