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Charter Boats Warn Fáilte Ireland They Will Go Out of Business

26th March 2021
Kilmore quay harbour in County Wexford is home to the largest charter boat fleet of any port in Ireland. Kilmore Quay's licensed charter boat fleet brings an estimated 10,000 tourists out to sea on trips and cruises around the Saltee Islands, including landings on the Islands, eco trips, angling, whale and dolphin trips
Kilmore quay harbour in County Wexford is home to the largest charter boat fleet of any port in Ireland. Kilmore Quay's licensed charter boat fleet brings an estimated 10,000 tourists out to sea on trips and cruises around the Saltee Islands, including landings on the Islands, eco trips, angling, whale and dolphin trips. The Irish Charter Skippers Association says 100 boats that offer trips such as sea angling are under threat from a lack of support during the pandemic Credit: via Jim Codd on Facebook

Charter boat skippers have warned the Government they will go out of business if Fáilte Ireland continues to exclude them from Covid-19 related supports offered to the tourism sector.

As The Times Ireland edition reports today, at least 100 boats around the coast offering wildlife tours, whale watching, and sea angling trips are seriously affected.

Afloat's Tom MacSweeney reported in January the issue of how boats are excluded from State COVID Support because they are mobile.

“When tourism recovers, there won’t be vessels there for Fáilte Ireland to direct visitors to, and valuable marine expertise will be lost,” the association chairman Donal Kennedy warns.

He says his members are “beyond frustration” at a recent response from Minster for Tourism Catherine Martin, in which she told the association that eligibility criteria for supports were a matter for Fáilte Ireland.

“And Fáilte Ireland is telling us its hands are tied and it is a matter for government, which seems to have forgotten this is an island,” Kennedy says.

Covid-19 related tourism industry supports initiated last year excluded many boat owners and coach operators as they did not have fixed premises.

Last month, Fáilte Ireland introduced grants for businesses that were not eligible for the Government's Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS).

Its new tourism business continuity scheme was tailored for outdoor activity providers, tourism golf courses, hop-on hop-off bus tours , cruise hire companies, campsites  and boat tours operators. 

However, most charter skippers were once again not eligible, as most earn below the minimum annual turnover of €50,000 required for applicants.

In a letter to the association, Martin said that the turnover threshold was “based on the likelihood that, for businesses with a turnover of less than €50,000, non-payroll fixed costs will be sufficiently low to enable the owners furlough the business by availing of other state aids”

“We are unable to make enough income to cover our operating costs, not to mention make a living, due to Covid-19 restrictions, as our operating costs can range anything between €8,500 and €10,000,” Kennedy said.

Charter skippers’ association eastern representative Eamonn Hayes, who owns one of ten vessels operating out of Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford, said that the fleet had been able to put to sea for three months last year.

“We ran trips to the Saltee Islands and for sea anglers, but at 50 per cent capacity – and our annual berthing fees cost around €2,500,” Hayes said.

“Our charter fleet attracts thousands of tourists to the south-east coast in normal years, and I cannot understand how the Government cannot recognise the value of this,” he said.

“The pandemic unemployment payment will pay for household bills, but not for a business with annual maintenance costs of between €8,500 and €10,000,” Hayes said.

The recreational angling sector is valued at 850 million euro annually, and sea angling accounts for about 40 per cent of overseas angling tourism in normal years with an annual estimated value of 29 million euro, according to Fáilte Ireland.

The Department of Tourism said that operational issues are a matter for Fáilte Ireland.

Read more in The Times here

Published in Aquatic Tourism
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Marine Leisure & Aquatic Tourism

Domestic coastal tourism expenditure was approximately €698 million in 2018, while domestic marine tourism generated €381 million.

Activities such as walking/ running along the coast, swimming and beach visitations are among the most popular activities for domestic visitors on both day and overnight trips.

While participation rates in pursuits such as bird and wildlife watching in coastal areas and visiting nature reserves, etc. in coastal areas were lower, these activities did see the highest frequency of both day and overnight trips for those active in these activities. 

According to the National University of Galway (NUIG) research the average expenditure per coastal day trip in 2018 was calculated at €95. The equivalent for coastal overnight trips was €310. The estimated water-based activity expenditure per person per trip across the sample was €56 rising to €73 for the subsample that actually undertake waterbased activities on their coastal visits. The results also indicate that domestic tourists undertake the majority of their marine activities on the West and South coasts of Ireland and that there are notable differences in participation rates across age groupings, social classes and by family makeup.

A domestic tourist is defined in this report as a person who spends at least one night away from home on their trip. Total expenditure by domestic tourists in coastal areas was estimated to be €698 million in 2018, which represents 35% of the total expenditure by domestic tourists (using the broader Fáilte Ireland measure for domestic tourists that includes business trips equating to 10.92 million in total trips and €2,006 million in total revenue).

The marine-related activity expenditure, or what might truly be referred to as domestic marine tourism, is estimated to generate revenue of €381 million with €172 million being spent on water-based activities. Marine tourism makes up an estimated 19% of total domestic tourism expenditure.

Marine Leisure Tourism - FAQ

Coastal tourism refers to land-based and water-based tourism activities taking place on the coast for which the proximity to the sea is a condition including also their respective services. Coastal and Marine Tourism & Leisure are seen as one of the Blue Economy (BE) sectors that can help unlock the potential of multi-use of space at sea by engaging with Blue Growth (BG) sectors such as Aquaculture and Marine Renewable Energy among others.

Sports: sailing, surfing, diving and fishing Heritage: Unesco coastal villages, archaeological sites of interest, biospheres and historical points of interest Arts: coastal museums, art galleries, museums, wrecks Education: Eco-tourism, field courses, NGOs. Food: Seafood restaurants, Seafood festivals

NUI Galway carried out a survey of domestic residents in Ireland in 2019 as part of a survey entitled "Valuing and understanding the dynamics of Ireland's Ocean Economy". The purpose of the household survey was to profile the domestic market for single-day trips (leisure) and overnight trips (tourism) for coastal and marine-related activities in Ireland. The results of the survey are also used to estimate what proportion of an Irish resident's total domestic tourism expenditure is in coastal areas (coastal tourism) and what proportion is spent on undertaking marine-related activities (marine tourism).

The NUI results highlight the important contribution that Ireland's marine and coastal resources make to the leisure experiences of the general population and the importance of the domestic tourism market to local coastal economies. The analysis indicates that domestic coastal tourism expenditure was approximately €698 million in 2018, while domestic marine tourism generated €381 million. Activities such as walking/ running along the coast, swimming and beach visitations are among the most popular activities for domestic visitors on both day and overnight trips. While participation rates in pursuits such as bird and wildlife watching in coastal areas and visiting nature reserves, etc. in coastal areas were lower, these activities did see the highest frequency of both day and overnight trips for those active in these activities. Satisfaction with the available marine-related leisure facilities was also found to be very high across all activities.

©Afloat 2020

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