The Irish Self-Catering Federation (ISCF) held a meeting earlier this month in Dublin to discuss the opportunities, challenges and difficulties facing rural tourism this year.
ISCF members, industry representatives and rural TDs were in attendance at the meeting.
The ISCF is a non-profit national organisation that represents the owners of self-catering properties in Ireland, of which there are over 6,000 units.
Affecting rural areas
Topics covered included the economic benefits self-catering premises bring to rural areas, including the financial spending in the locality, the effects rent-pressure zones (RPZs) are having on the self-catering operator and the knock-on effects a lack of accommodation will have in rural areas.
Precipitating these concerns is the introduction of the short-term rental bill, which would introduce a new short-term tourist letting (STTL) register.
It was unanimously agreed that a registration system is welcome. It is expected this register will ensure a consistent standard of quality premises in Ireland, similar to what has been introduced in Spain and Portugal.
The problem with this upcoming legislation, particularly with the planning requirements, was highlighted and discussed.
It is felt there is uncertainty around the detail of the bill and, as a result, operators are receiving mixed feedback from professionals when it comes to addressing their individual planning needs.
Members in attendance shared their experience and outlined the effects the changes will have on their enterprises.
A member from Sligo shared her experience of relocating from Dublin to her home place and renovating a building that is over 150 years old, with the help of a credit union loan.
With single glazed windows, she feels this property is not conducive to long-term rental, but fears that, as RPZs are based on numbers, her property could be in difficulty soon.
'Not just tourism'
A member from the east of the country suggested “it is not just tourism, it is a service for the whole community”.
The ISCF estimates that self-catering properties account for over €81m in income from rural areas each year.
“This is part of our family or farm income, our retirement plan or the college fees for our children. There are many women in Ireland on family farms who do not have other income and depend on this for an independent income,” stated ISCF chair Máire Ní Mhurchú.
Rural TDs who voiced their support for members included Johnny Guirke (SF), Meath west; Veronica Murphy (IND), Wexford; Christopher O’Sullivan (FF), Cork southwest; Martin Kenny (SF), Sligo-Leitrim; Noel Grealish (IND), Galway west; and Matt Shanahan (IND), Waterford.
A meeting was held on Thursday 16 February between representatives from the Department of Tourism, the Department of Housing, B&B Ireland, ISCF and online travel agents such as Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia.
Speaking with the Irish Farmers Journal, Ms Ní Mhurchú said: “We have decided that despite our best efforts to co-operate with the register, and asking repeatedly for clarity from the Department of Housing, we cannot at present support it.”
It is expected a meeting will be held on 27 March in Killarney to further discuss this matter.