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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I have two brief items to bring to the attention of the Leader. They both relate to tourism, which as Members know is a huge contributor to the economy. In today's edition of The Irish Times, I note that the mandarins in the Department of Finance have approached the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, with a proposal to abolish the 9% VAT rate in the hospitality sector. The 9% VAT rate has been a huge boost for tourism for the hoteliers, restaurateurs and so on since it was introduced in 2011. We always understood that it could not last forever. However, this is certainly not the time to remove it. The indications so far of Brexit, particularly, and to a lesser extent the isolationist policies of the Trump Administration, are that tourism numbers are falling. I pointed out in a previous debate in the House that UK visitor numbers for the first quarter of this year are down by 7%. Anybody from the tourism counties such as Kerry or Dublin will know anecdotally that this is happening. The figures are now stacking up to prove it. Therefore, I believe this is most unfortunate timing.
When I raised this issue before, Members rightly pointed out that there is a lot of underpaying and unsatisfactory pay levels at the low levels of the tourism sector. I am in full agreement with those comments and I do not want to stand over anything like that. However, we must remember that a lot of our hoteliers are ploughing their profits back into refurbishing their hotels and bars on a regular basis. There are hotels in Kerry that are demolished and recreated every number of years. That is why we are there offering facilities. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Finance to address that issue when he is next in the House.
It was very disappointing to read that in a surveillance operation, the Garda detected a number of taxi drivers cheating their customers by taking scenic routes to prime destinations, such as from the city centre to the airport.