By Cathy Halloran
Mid West Correspondent
They are an industry which provide an important cog in the wheel of our massive €9 billion international tourist industry, but Covid-19 has made them feel invisible.
Hundreds of jobs in the limousine and chauffeur sector are facing wipe out as a result of the catastrophic downturn in airline services and the tourist industry.
Pat Keogh’s family has been in the business at Shannon Airport for the past 70 years, since the airport started back in 1949, but this is the first time his fleet of luxury cars has not left the forecourt at what is normally the height of the tourist season.
“Normally my yard would be empty with cars clocking up thousands of miles on the high ways and by ways of Ireland, but they have not left the forecourt since March.
“We provide a high end business for thousands of US and European visitors who like to book their chauffeur driven cars for the entire stretch of their holidays visiting natural beauty spots like the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, the Céide fields, as well as the high class golf resorts we have from Donegal to Cork”, he said
But the drastic drop in visitors flying into Shannon has had a knock on effect on this business and many will not survive.
The Western Chauffeur Drive Association, which represents 40 companies employing over 300 people is calling for particular supports in the Government’s July stimulus package to help small and medium industries.
Secretary Fergal Jordan, who runs a family business in Castletroy in Limerick, said they were all viable businesses up until the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“We provide a very important service and spend a lot of time with our high spending visitors, so we are ambassadors for the Irish tourist business.
“We’ve lobbied hard about the real problems facing our sector, but we feel invisible at present, that our issues of concern about the threat to our businesses are not being listened to by Government and by our elected representatives,” he said.
“Many have heavy loans as we need to keep investing and upgrading our fleet of cars, people carriers and buses. But those loans have to be paid and with no income coming in it will be difficult to sustain many businesses.
“And we have ideas to put to Government such as the licence intervention scheme, which would facilitate the Government buying our licences at a nominal price, and we could purchase them back when the industry rebounds”, he said.
Paul Thompson, Chairman of the association said they want their concerns addressed in the government’s proposed package of measures, or else many of these specialist businesses will not see a new season in 2021.
“Banks can only hold out for so long on our loans, and they will need to be paid. We need to be listened to, and our concerns seriously addressed, or many will not see past this autumn,” he said.
The Government say the July stimulus will be of scale and will be implemented quickly for maximum impact.
It will include measures to assist the sectors worst affected by the crisis, including hospitality, tourism and leisure.
© 2019 Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland