Pub owners want school holidays extended to boost trade

Pub owners in tourist counties want to have school holidays extended to boost drink sales in late August.

They want a return to the traditional back-to-school in the first week in September to boost their important home market and to help with the drop in number of English visitors, a leading member of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said.

In recent years the holiday period had been cut short with schools returning in late August, and rural pubs and accommodation businesses were badly affected, VFI chairman in Kerry, Ger Counihan said.

Families were confining their August holidays to the first fortnight of the month in order to prepare to return to school, Mr Counihan said.

He was responding to reports the education minister was being asked by the VFI to ensure a full closure date for schools in August.

“This has come up in meeting after meeting but we are afraid to say it because people think it’s all about drink. It is not all about drink. Pubs now are about food and accommodation,” he said.

A cross-tourism forum including the Irish Hoteliers Federation, representatives of caravan parks and B&Bs were also behind the suggestion to lobby for a return of the September school date, sought in recent weeks from Minister for Education Richard Bruton.

“This has become even more important this year with the ten per cent drop in British visitors, and with Brexit looming, “ Mr Counihan said.

Dublin did not understand the concerns of rural Ireland and “the politicians in Dublin do not think of rural Ireland,” Mr Counihan who met recently with tourism minister Shane Ross to lobby for an new tax incentive for vintners to provide overnight accommodation.

“It’s all about Dublin, Dublin, Dublin,” he said.

In tourist counties such as Kerry, festivals were all being “packaged” into the first two weeks of August – this included the Rose of Tralee which had been brought forward to cater for the return to school date.

“The home market is becoming even more important with the decline in English visitors. The things that we can control, we should control,” he said of the lobby to Mr Bruton for a revision of the school return date.

However, the VFI call received a lukewarm response from Kerry TD and publican Danny Healy-Rae. Mr Heal-Rae said he was “not convinced” enforcing the September return would make any difference.

“I can’t see any merit in it, while I would like to see the school holidays going into September.”

There was a set number of days for school and if people went back to school earlier at one end, this meant they were able to take longer breaks at the other end, he felt. “It amounts to the same thing,” Mr Healy-Rae said.

The Department of Education has said it had no plans to change the date of return.

Secondary schools have to teach 167 days a year and primary 183 and while there is set time for most breaks, there is a degree of flexibility around the summer return date.

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