Professional Conference Organisers say “more is needed for jobs and the economy” as Government announces stimulus plan

The Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers – AIPCO – has called the Government stimulus plan “a step forward but not enough”.

The AIPCO said the aim of the July stimulus is to save jobs and get people back to work however it falls short in many areas in its aim to do this.

Ronan Flood, chairman of AIPCO, said: “We are delighted that action is being taken by the Government but overall we are disappointed. 

“We welcome the extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme as this will enable us to maintain our teams to not only service deferred business but to win new business for Ireland. We also welcome plans to enhance the business restart grant.

“However we are disappointed there has been no VAT exemption scheme for our sector. This would offer Ireland the possibility of competing effectively with competitor destinations and would lead to increased employment in the wider tourism sector. We were hoping for the application of a VAT Exemption when a local Professional Conference Organiser is used. This will allow Ireland to compete with other countries who are offering this incentive. This measure will have a quick win in increasing our market share. 

“We are asking the Government to consider a more long-term approach, support conference organisers during the immediate crisis, and help to properly showcase Ireland in a post-COVID world.”

Every event being organised by AIPCO members this year has been cancelled, with an increasing number of 2021 events now in doubt. The international conference sector has a pipeline of events planned for the next decade, which are estimated to be worth €1.2 billion euro to the Irish economy. The sector currently employs 230 people, but there are fears that many companies may not survive the current crisis, putting future events at risk.

 The AIPCO has called on the Government to:

  1. Significantly increase resources to Fáilte Ireland to secure the immediate future of the Business Tourism Sector and to secure new leads for 2021 and beyond.
  2. Due to the long lead nature of the Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) business model, we ask for the wage subsidy scheme to be extended for our sector until 31 May 2021
  3. A resilience and hardship grant scheme to support our members to keep their doors open and deliver the future business to the value of over 200 million euros to the Irish economy
  4. Financial support to International Association clients to enhance our competitive position in Europe
  5. In addition to a general reduction in the hospitality VAT rate, we are asking for the application of a VAT Exemption when a local Professional Conference Organiser is used. This will allow Ireland to compete with other countries who are offering this incentive. This measure will have a quick win in increasing our market share
  6. We require a convincing reassurance message for Destination Ireland. We request the development of clear guidelines of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) on how conferences will take place safely. A priority is the reduction of social distancing from 2m to 1m to ensure financial viability for conferences.
  7. A dedicated Task Force for the Association Conference Sector to contribute to the work of the Tourism Recovery Task force. 

AIPCO represents ten companies which organise international conferences in Ireland, and which between them employ 230 event professionals.

AIPCO says its members organise an average of 96 conferences per annum which are attended by over 32 thousand delegates from across the world. As Ireland has begun its reopening process, 90% of international conferences between now and summer 2021 have already been cancelled.

Read more about Failte Ireland government supposrts here

Read more about the Government €7.4 billion Jobs Stimulus here

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