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Thousands of rural tourism businesses ‘face closure’ over new short-term letting rules

Tourism chiefs will deliver a letter to Taoiseach Simon Harris before Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting outlining ‘untold damage’

New rules around short-term property lettings risk causing “untold damage” to rural Ireland by shutting down thousands of short-term tourism accommodation units, tourism chiefs have warned in a letter to Taoiseach Simon Harris.

The revised Short-Term Tourist Letting Bill is expected to be brought before Cabinet shortly when the Government is due to approve the general scheme.

The plan to limit short-term letting would mean a person cannot advertise a property on platforms without a registration number. The aim is to take as many as 12,000 properties out of the short-term letting sector and make them available for long-term rentals.

Under the plans, property owners offering accommodation for periods of up to and including 21 nights will need to be registered with Fáilte Ireland.

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It will be able to levy a €300 fixed-penalty notice on property owners who advertise their property without a valid registration number. Property owners and online platforms who breach the new short-term letting rules will also face fines of up to €5,000.

The letter from the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), the Irish Self-Catering Federation, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), the Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions, and Ireland’s Association of Adventure Tourism will be delivered to Mr Harris on Tuesday.

It says figures from Fáilte Ireland show Kerry will lose 1,858 short-term tourism accommodation units, while Galway will lose 1,459 and Cork will lose 1,313. In total, counties along the Wild Atlantic Way will lose more than 6,500 properties.

The group says it “urgently asks you to work with us to stop unintended and serious harm being inflicted on Ireland’s rural tourism economy – and the thousands of jobs, livelihoods and communities that depend on it”.

“Self-catering homes and short-term holiday lets bring visitors from all over the world to rural Ireland supporting local economies,” the letter continues.

“Yet the Government intends to shut down thousands of the small business owners who run these properties, the vast majority of which are in rural Ireland. We urge you to tread carefully and ensure that the Bill and associated legislation safeguards rural tourism.”

While the tourism chiefs say they “welcome the register” and the transparency to the sector, they add the “onerous planning obligations” being drafted by the Department of Housing are posing communities and stakeholders “significant concern”.

“Introducing a register, without clearly stating who can and cannot be on it, risks causing untold damage to rural Ireland by arbitrarily closing down self-catering homes and short-term holiday lets in rural communities and tourism towns across the country,” they say.

“It is vital that the short-term rental and self-catering sector is not squeezed out of existence by impending legislation ... Government estimate that the register will force 10,700 owners – each a small-business owner – out of the sector causing great distress and concern.”

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, chief executive of ITIC, said: “It is vital that holiday homes and short-term tourism rentals are protected in regional Ireland. They form a key part of the industry and bring economic activity to all parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, often where there are no hotels or guest houses.”

RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said: “If tourism towns are going to lose their short term rentals and holiday homes then this will have a big knock-on impact on downstream businesses from cafes to restaurants, pubs to attractions.”

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