A national campaign to address staff shortages in the tourism and hospitality sectors is being launched today by Fáilte Ireland.

The €700,000 marketing drive will run across national radio, print, online platforms and social media.

The aim of the initiative is to attract more people to jobs in the sector as the tourism industry faces into the busiest season of the calendar year.

The campaign will target people ranging in ages from 16 to the over 60s, with a particular focus on retirees and parents who, according to Fáilte Ireland research, are seeking flexible working arrangements and patterns.

Prior to the Covid pandemic, tourism accounted for 260,000 jobs in Ireland and in some regions of the country provided as many as 1 in 5 jobs.

It is understood that many people who previously worked in the industry may have retrained and gone to work in other sectors during the pandemic.

Many may also have left the country to return to their home countries for the duration of the pandemic.

According to the tourism development authority, recruitment and skills challenges currently being experienced are inhibiting the sector's ability to recover, putting small and rural businesses in particular at risk.

"The loss of skilled workers and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff is the greatest barrier to the tourism sector's recovery from the pandemic," Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland said.

"Tourism is a critical part of the national economy, with a track record of providing employment opportunities in communities the length and breadth of the country, particularly in rural and regional areas," he added.

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Fáilte Ireland's Director of Sector Development Jenny de Saulles said the urgency of the staffing and skills shortage is heightened as the industry faces into the busy summer season.

"Fáilte Ireland is working closely with the industry on a range of initiatives to help businesses to access talent pools, stand out in a competitive market and rebuild skills that have been lost during the pandemic," she explained.

Continued momentum in the sector

Separately, the monthly tourism dashboard from the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation in association with AIB showed continued momentum in recovery in the tourism sector.

April data shows total arrivals were down 21% compared to the same month in 2019 - the last 'normal' year for the industry.

Continental Europe was the strongest performer, with business volumes down 15% on 2019.

Shannon airport was reported as having a particularly strong month, down just 4% on the same time in 2019, accounted for partly by the reinstatement of key transatlantic services.

The report noted that significant cost pressures were impacting the industry with inflation four times the rate it was in 2019. Oil prices have soared by 47%.

The ITIC estimates that full recovery in the tourism sector will not be achieved until 2026 with the war in Ukraine, inflation and labour shortages among the key risks to the recovery.

"Competitiveness will be key for tourism businesses in the months ahead and Government needs to stay the course in terms of supporting the tourism industry which was the hardest hit economic sector by the pandemic," Eoghan O'Mara Walsh, CEO of the Confederation said.

He welcomed the Government's extension of the 9% VAT rate on tourism and hospitality services until February of next year.