Businesses in coastal and rural towns, particularly along the Atlantic coast, are feeling the economic effects of Covid-19 the most.

Research by Chambers Ireland has revealed that businesses in coastal and rural communities – especially those along the Atlantic Economic Corridor – are feeling the impact of the economic calamity caused by Covid-19 more keenly than in other regions.

This research follows a report published by the Regional Assemblies earlier this week which identify the geographical areas in Ireland that are more likely to be exposed to economic disruption caused by the measures introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Without adequate funding for local government, we risk exposing our high streets and businesses to further economic damage”

Tourism is the most affected sector, with over half of tourism businesses predicting that their 2020 revenue will be about a third, or less, of what they had been expecting going into the year.

The hospitality sector is impacted by the double effect of reduced consumption within the economy as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and the challenge of operating their businesses within the context of physical distancing, upon the reopening of the Economy.

Entertainment, culture and the arts are similarly challenged by the necessary public health restrictions as for many the capacity restrictions on their venues sees their business opportunities being severely limited for the duration of the crisis.

Local Services, which include many public facing businesses, including dry-cleaners, gyms, hairdressers, and those which are tied to local areas as a result of the nature of their business are often limited in their capacity to maintain operations through work practice changes such as remote working.

What counties have been hit the hardest?

List of Irish counties affected by economic impact of Covid crisis.

The county with the highest Covid-19 exposure ratio was Kerry with 53.8pc of its commercial units operationg in the sectors most likely to be worst affected.

This was followed by Westmeath at 51pc, Donegal at 50.6pc, Cavan at 50.5pc and Clare at 50.4pc.

Exposure is generally lower in more urban-based counties that have activities capable of operating remotely such as finance, ICT and professional and technical services.

“When we went to the polls in early February, it was not possible to foresee the economic difficulties we would face only a few months later,” commented Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot.

Talbot said the research highlights the challenge the next Government faces, not only in reopening the economy but in supporting the recovery of sectors and regions that have been disproportionately affected by the outbreak of this virus.

“While this crisis is hurting businesses throughout the economy, some sectors such as tourism and hospitality are particularly badly impacted. Others such as Local Services have been forced to close by government directive and the uncertainty about the way forward has put livelihoods in peril.”

Tablot said that given the reliance of the Atlantic seaboard counties on industries such as tourism, the research shows that the west coast is the region most impacted.

“The best way we can support these sectors and local economies to recover is to ensure the towns, cities and regions become even better places to live, work and do business. It is essential that within the next Programme for Government there is a high impact and well-funded response to support these places and regions to economically diversify, during what will be a very difficult few years to come.

“Such a response should include the delivery of investment in regional infrastructure to support economic growth, more supports for the tourism sector and a national funded strategy to ensure that town centres and high streets, where so many of these businesses are based, are supported to thrive.

“In particular, there will be a need for an urgent increase in funding for Local Authorities. This is critical as these bodies will be tasked with re-purposing town centres, through increased pedestrianisation, wider footpaths and more bikes lanes, so that they can adapt to the necessary social distancing restrictions that will need to be in place as we move to reopening local economies.

“This funding must come from central Government. Without adequate funding for local government, we risk exposing our high streets and businesses to further economic damage.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 8 May, 2020

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