Rural Ireland will bear the heaviest burden from the tourism sector's crash, according to a new report from EY Ireland.

That is because of the disproportionate importance tourism has in certain counties, something that will be keenly felt as the trade all but dries up until 2021 at the earliest.

The EY report is also calling for a coordinated plan to respond to the challenge - and for tourism-focused firms to be more adaptable to changing consumer demands.

"Both directly and indirectly tourism is an enormous sector in Ireland; it accounts for nearly a quarter of all jobs in the workforce once you start to include sectors like retail, which would benefit from tourism as well," said Simon MacAllister, valuation, modelling and economics partner at EY Ireland.

"What’s really interesting from the research we’ve done is the degree to which different parts of the country have a very significant impact compared to others."

That found that, in Kerry, 18% of jobs are directly dependent on tourism. In Donegal the figure is 13%.

That compares to 10% in the likes of Dublin and Cork.

"The impact is that much greater because the rural economy is largely by two big sectors - the agrifood sector and tourism, so when you do have a big downturn like this there are far fewer alternatives for people," Mr MacAllister said.

With little activity expected this year, and the likes of Ryanair talking about 2022 as the earliest point for a resumption of normality, EY is calling for a coordinated plan to mitigate against the damage that will be done to the industry.

That will involve the public and private sectors, will need short and long term elements - and must be broken down into separate sub-sectors to ensure it is as effective as possible.

Ultimately it is about building resilience into the sector, Mr MacAllister says, and positioning it to take advantage of whatever opportunities may arise in the coming years.

"Might be strange to talk about opportunities when you see the scale of the pressure they’re under," he said. "But there is opportunity now for Irish tourism businesses to retarget Irish consumers that will be looking to take more breaks at home or more staycations."

Even a sharp rise in local tourism will not make up for a loss of international activity, but the EY also sees potential opportunities there too.

"Once there is a level of a resumption of international activity, they might be looking to target people who are interested in holidays that are uncrowned, or are not the teeming city breaks that they would have taken in the past," he said.

"So there may be opportunities, but tourism businesses will need help in trying to build those offerings.

"We’ve shown in the past through Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, we’ve been very successful at building up our offerings like the Wild Atlantic Way and other regionally-focused offerings, and I think we’ll be able to do that again."