Corrs Corner

Editor Frank Corr gives his views on the hospitality and tourism industries, shares anecdotes and gossip and welcomes your contributions.

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Spend for Ireland

Grafton Street looked lovely yesterday (Tuesday) with the glittering Christmas lights, the buskers, and Brown Thomas wonderful fairytale window displays.

And - yes people were spending in the Westbury, in Marks and Spencer, BT and other places. It seemed to me that there is still money in our little country, despite having to hand over most of what we earn to the Government and the Trioka.

Then I began to wonder just how much of spending this Christmas will be with money borrowed from credit card companies, Credit Unions or even moeyl enders. Are we in fact being goaded by the Government to spend money that we do not have just to keep the tills ringing in a retail sector that is mostky foreign-owned ?

Much as we would all like to see a bumper Christmas in restaurants, hotels and shops, it would be really dangerous if it involved us going back to the Bad Old Days of the Celtic Tiger when 'maxing the credit card' became a way of life

Maybe we should opt for a simpler Christmas in 2011 and spend only what we have.

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Cafes After Dark

Why, I wonder is it so difficult to find a cafe open in the evenings ?

Throughout the 'Cafe Society' countries of Europe it is possible to stop by for a coffee and dessert or a light snack up to midnight and beyond.

In this country however cafes seem to close down when  the office lights are dimmed around 6 or 7pm, even when they are called Insommnia.

Here in Bray it is almost impossible to find a cafe open in the evenings, so if you don't want to go out for a full meal, the only option is the pub.

Maybe the market for late-evening coffee drinking does not exist in the 'Land of the Pint', but I have a hunch that is somebody tried out a late-opening cafe outside of Central Dublin, they would be pleasantly surprised

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Solo or Merge ?

Should the promotion of Shannon and Dublin be taken over by Failte Iireland, which already markets the rest of the country and is reponsible for tourism product development?.

Yes- probably- would be my take on the Shannon proposal which has already been given the backing of local hoteliers. Yet Shannon has a long and enviable record in 'doing its own thing' very successfully. If it were not for Brendan O'Regan, Paul Quigley, Christy Lynch and other SFADCO pioneers we would not have the Buntratty Folk Park, the banquets at Bunratty, Knappogue and Dunguaire, Lough Gur, Rent an Irish Cottaage and the King John's Castle centre in Limerick. The pace of innivation may have slackeened a little in recent years, but creative tourism development and promotion is in the Shannon genes. Just how free they would be to act creatively under a Failte Ireland umbrella is a moot point.

Dublin has a stronger case for independence because it is a destination that is disctinct from the rest of Ireland. If there was no Irish tourism industry, no Tourism Ireland and no Failte Irerland, visitors would still flock to our capital city, which competes very successfully with many historic and cultural city destinations throughout Europe when it comes to attracting visitors. Being part of an overall Failte Ireland development strategy and a Tourism Ireland all-island marketing strategy could cramp its style.

'One size fits all' does not suit tourism marketing and putting Shaannon and Dublin into a national 'pot' for the sake of saving money or simplifying administration may just be a wrong move.

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VAT on Donations

While the preferential VAT rate of 9% will continue to apply to tourist services after next month's budget, visitors will, of course be liable for the new 23% rate on a wide range of retail purchases and this will push up the cost of a holiday here.

Meanwhile an issue has arisen over VAT on charitable online donations paid through a website or an SMS text message.

Paddy Coyne, who is well known in our indusry, heads which handles such donations on behalf of a range of charities.
'We have hit on a major issue, where mobile phone operators are duducting VAT on charity related SMS text messages which are classed as VAT exempt by the Revenue.', he tells me

'We have been unable to get the phone operators to commit to updating their in-house systems.'

As a result of the practice charities are losing e1,700 for every e10,000 donated in a practce which Paddy says, is contraray to Revenue guidelines. He has organised a petition which can be accessed at 

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Go for It, Leo

A cut of upto €9m in tourism spending; a 2% rise in VAT and an obligation on employers to fund sick pay- it is adding up to be a very poor budget for the tourism and hospitality sector.

Minister Varad kar might make light of a cut of 5% to 6% in tourism funding, but it will mean a very significant reduction in the resources of Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, depending on where the axe falls. Tourism Ireland can make a strong case for increased funding in 2012, given the welcome rise in visitor numbers this year while Failte Ireland is delivering excellent value in terms of product development and training. With a few weeks left, it is not yet too late for our Minister to fight for at least a retention of spending for Tourism, which is relatively small in the overall national budget and which delivers in spades in terms of employment, tax and revenue.

Go for it Leo.

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