Injured O’Leary warns Ireland not to make Brexit worse with a new air travel tax

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Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary warned the Government that restoring the air travel tax would be a disaster as the Irish tourism industry faces the threat of a hard Brexit.

O’Leary – his left arm in a sling – said the Government should heed the warnings from leaders in the sector, saying a new tax would be debilitating to travel. The Irish travel tax was abolished in 2014.

He said Ryanair had invested heavily in digital, and this approach had boosted growth, despite uncertainty over Britain’s exit from Europe. “The reality is that the definite outcome of Brexit is unknown, but it is looking more and more like it will be a hard exit of Britain from the EU. That will most certainly impact us and our businesses, and could severely damage many industries, like travel.

“There’s merit in being prepared in all aspects of business, and in order to grow now, and be Brexit-ready then, businesses need to address their customer needs now. For Ryanair, that meant taking a good look at ourselves and our customers and listening to what they wanted. It was our website; it was developing our app; it was being remotely accessible and easily accessible to over 100m customers worldwide at the touch of a button.”

O’Leary was sharing his insights for business growth in tumultuous times with Ireland’s financial leaders at accountancy body ACCA Business Leaders’ Forum in Dublin.

Michael O’Leary, CEO at Ryanair is greeted by Liz Hughes, head of Ireland and Mainland Europe, ACCA. Pic: Mac Innes Photography

Michael O’Leary, CEO at Ryanair, is greeted by Liz Hughes, head of Ireland and Mainland Europe, ACCA. Pic: Mac Innes Photography

He said Ryanair aims to boost in customer numbers by over 80m by 2024, adding: “We are in the fourth year of our ‘Always Getting Better’ campaign, and we are experiencing real growth in tandem with key business developments. It is our absolute, and yes, ambitious, objective to build on this momentum throughout the year ahead and beyond, despite external factors, whatever they may be.” 

Liz Hughes, Head of ACCA Ireland and Mainland Europe, said: “There is no doubt that Mr O’Leary and Ryanair are enjoying continued success in a time of financial and political turmoil, and the new developments that Mr O’Leary has implemented at Ryanair and subsequent growth in its customer base as a result is testament to this.

“There can be a tendency for businesses to be cautious rather than ambitious in times of economic uncertainty, and to listen more to concerns rather than take note of opportunities, especially in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Mr O’Leary certainly gives a fascinating perspective on finding the balance between caution and ambition to drive business growth for our members, regardless of their industry,” she said.

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