Staffing ‘nightmare’ is biggest threat to the tourism industry as foreign visitors return

Restaurateurs are struggling with the biggest staffing “nightmare” in the tourism industry just as visitor numbers are bouncing back, a major report warns.

Almost three quarters of those surveyed say they just “can’t get the staff” – which is the highest proportion in any sector to say this.

The latest Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer, recently presented to industry chiefs, shows worker shortages are among the top five concerns ahead of the busy summer season.

Rising costs are also among the big issues for business owners including hotel and B&B bosses, and tour operators.

These are followed by a fear that many Irish holidaymakers are heading abroad.

Other challenges include a lack of beds due amid the refugee crisis, and high car hire costs.

An “intimidating environment” in Dublin including aggressive begging, public drinking, and drug-dealing are also raised in the report.

“Staffing is a nightmare,” said one manager at a Kerry restaurant in the document.

On top of escalating costs, finding staff remains a significant challenge in the restaurant sector as 71pc cite “can’t get the staff” as a concern.

A shortage of chefs remains a problem in hotels, it says.

It notes that the restaurant sector is the only one that expects to be down on customers this year.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said it is the most vulnerable of the tourism sectors. He said the availability of affordable housing to buy or rent is having a major impact on attracting staff.

“The Government will need to refocus its efforts in terms of an extension of the Vat rate, which runs out at the end of August,” he said.

The association is calling for an increase in the hours students who need visas are allowed work during term time because of staff shortages.

It wants the hours they are permitted to work to rise from 20 hours to 30 hours a week.

The report also says operating costs are soaring. Three-quarters of all tourism businesses said energy costs were a particular cause of concern.

The report notes that customers have less disposable income, and it is therefore not easy to hike prices.

Beds are scarce in some areas, it says.

It says there is a moral duty to help by accommodating internationally displaced people, but this leaves some areas with little or no accommodation for tourists.

“If people can’t stay, they won’t come,” said an activity provider in Mayo.

Among Dublin businesses, 23pc cited antisocial behaviour as a concern. They said this makes the city look “dirty”.

A manager at a Dublin restaurant said that people no longer feel safe to go out in the town.

On a positive note, inbound tour operators say the North American market is particularly buoyant and there is huge demand for golf travel.

However, there are concerns about the cost of accommodation.

One business owner says tourism would benefit tremendously if state facilities, such as OPW sites, were opened year-round.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan’s exclusive take on the day’s news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

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