This month's Budget generated varying reactions from cross-sectoral business organisations, although, not surprisingly, they generally welcomed the foreign earnings deduction scheme, the special assignee relief programme, and the extension of R&D reliefs.
The Irish Exporters Association was the most positive, calling it "one of the most export promotional budgets we have seen for decades", but IBEC labelled it "one of the most inflationary budgets in decades", ISME branded it a "smoke and mirrors Budget that was uninspiring and will do nothing to stimulate businesses", while Chambers Ireland referred to the elephant in the room with: "we must see quantifiable savings from Croke Park as a matter of urgency in 2012 now that the Government has avoided making hard decisions in today's Budget".
The following are some of the key aspects of the Budget provisions, as summarised on the Grant Thornton website:
Special assignee relief programme: A new special assignee relief programme is being introduced to allow multi-national and indigenous companies attract key people to Ireland. The objective is to create more jobs and facilitate the development and expansion of businesses in Ireland.
Foreign earnings deduction: A foreign earnings deduction is being introduced to further support the export drive by aiding companies seeking to expand into emerging markets. This targeted deduction will apply where an individual spends 60 days a year developing markets for Ireland in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Details of these and additional measures will be contained in the Finance Bill.
Exemption for start-ups: The exemption from corporation tax and capital gains tax for certain trading start-up companies introduced in 2009 is being extended to include start-up companies that commence trading in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The exemption applies for three years and is subject to certain anti-avoidance provisions.
R&D tax credit: The first €100,000 of qualifying R&D expenditure will benefit from the 25% R&D tax credit on a volume basis, with no requirement to refer to the 2003 base year spend. For R&D expenditure in excess of €100,000 the relief continues to be based on incremental costs in excess of the 2003 spend. The outsourcing limits for subcontracted R&D costs are being increased to the greater of 10% of total costs (or 5% in the case of sub-contracting to third level institutions) or €100k. Companies in receipt of the R&D credit will have the option to use a portion of the credit to reward key employees who have been involved in the development of R&D.
Value Added Tax: The standard rate of VAT will increase by 2% from 21% to 23% with effect from 1 January 2012.
Motor tax: Increases will apply to all annual motor tax rates from 1 January 2012.
While the first four items above are positive for business development, particularly in exports, the increase in VAT will have to be absorbed by many manufacturers and/or retailers, particularly those serving the domestic market, if key price points are to be maintained.
A key question for 2012 is to what extent the two 'surviving' banks will support businesses' requirements for cash flow and development. Time will soon tell if Minister for Finance Michael Noonan's promises come to pass: "These restructured banks must now serve the different sectors of the economy. We have set the two pillar banks ambitious SME lending targets of €3 billion each this year, €3.5 billion each next year and €4 billion each in 2013. By making this credit available, we are supporting increased activity in a key sector for job creation."
For individual business travellers, and company financial controllers, the increase (and probable future increases) in motor tax and petrol/diesel duty will be unappealing, even if regarded as inevitable. One cause for a sigh of relief is the unchanged air travel tax – but perhaps that might be premature, given Minister Noonan's turn of phrase: "The Government was disappointed earlier this year when Aer Lingus and Ryanair were unwilling to provide additional flights to Ireland in exchange for the abolition of the Air Travel Tax. This offer is still on the table and, while the Government appreciates the contribution to the Irish economy being made by the main carriers, we want them to bring additional tourists into the country."
The Budget was, predictably, a curate's egg for business and the business traveller. But let's not forget that "we" didn't create the problem – either in sovereign or bank debt – but that "we" are being forced to pay for the solution – and that, at national and EU level, it is a 'solution' designed to save not only the banks but also the bondholders, who now know, if they didn't already, that political leaders will rely on "us" to ensure that the levels of risk involved in their investments are, in reality, zero.
Business Organisations' Reactions
Irish Exporters Association Chief Executive John Whelan said: "This is one of the most export promotional budgets we have seen for decades and will go a long way to assisting exporters develop new products and sell services into rapidly growing but distant BRIC markets.
"The IEA have been lobbying for several years for a Foreign Earnings Deduction Scheme to support the export drive into the fast growing markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China and strongly welcomes the announcement in today's Budget. Also, we welcome the Special Assignee Relief Programme announced as a key measure to ensure the right people are available to deliver the next round of export growth."
The IEA also welcomed the following measures announced for Indigenous industry:
The first €100,000 of R&D expenditure of all companies to be allowed on a volume basis for the purpose of the R&D Tax Credit
Outsourcing of R&D credits – companies will now have the option to use some portion of the R&D credit to reward key employees who have been involved in the development of R&D
The corporate tax exemption for new start-up companies extension for the next three years and availability for companies that commence trading in 2012, 2013 and 2014
Smaller companies will also be able to avail of the planned foreign earnings deduction where they plan to expand their export markets into the BRICS countries
Corporation tax relief for start-ups
On other general measures the IEA particularly welcomed:
No increase in income tax
Corporate Tax Rate remaining at 12.5%
In IBEC's initial reaction to the taxation measures, Director General Danny McCoy said: "€1.6 billion will be raised in tax, with only €1.45 billion saved in current expenditure reductions, and this will undermine future economic growth. Budget 2012 will be one of the most inflationary budgets in decades, adding approximately 1.5% to the inflation rate next year and will undermine Ireland's efforts to regain competitiveness lost during the boom years. Abolishing employer PRSI relief on employee pensions will increase labour costs and is a further significant cost on employment, following the move to reduce the redundancy rebate.
"The budget will introduce very significant increases in indirect taxes, such as VAT and carbon tax. While this is preferable to income tax hikes, it will nevertheless hit consumer spending and result in a more difficult trading environment for domestic businesses. As suggested by IBEC, the Government did however take positive steps to support R&D and the financial services industry, attract mobile talent and restore normal activity to the property market. The Government has shown a lack of new thinking in its efforts to close the budget deficits and has instead relied on reducing service provision and increasing taxes that will harm the economy."
The Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association said: "The 'Smoke and Mirrors' Budget was uninspiring and will do nothing to stimulate businesses, create employment or provide the certainty necessary for future growth. The Minister had an opportunity to introduce measures to get us out of the current economic mess, but has failed to do so."
ISME welcomed the decisions to maintain income tax rates, extend the Corporation Tax exemption and R&D relief, but was extremely concerned at the increase in VAT, which will put further pressure on consumers. It described the decision as short-sighted, will not bring in the revenues forecast and will have a devastating impact on businesses already struggling to survive.
"Increases in motor and carbon tax will increase business costs. For a small open economy specifically relying on road transport, the decision to penalise individuals and businesses further will backfire in lost jobs and enterprise.
"Raising the rate for Capital Gains and Acquisition tax could lead to a reduction on the amounts recovered.
"Overall, while the Association acknowledges that tough measures are required to address our significant exchequer deficit, this Budget will only make a bad problem even worse for the SME sector, by increasing business costs, with the threat of more to come. The failure to implement initiatives to assist, promote and incentivise enterprise, the area of the economy that is relied on to produce wealth and generate employment, will be viewed as a major own-goal.
"This Budget is over simplistic in its drive to generate income and cut expenditure, with little or no consideration for future economic growth and development."
Chambers Ireland said that we must see quantifiable savings from Croke Park as a matter of urgency in 2012 "now that the Government has avoided making hard decisions in today's Budget".
Chief Executive Ian Talbot said: "The 2pc increase in VAT is very disappointing. However, this won't apply until January 2012 and gives a window for consumers to spend over the next four weeks. We welcome the rise in the exemption limit for the Universal Social Charge from €4k to €10k as a positive move that will incentivise work, but we would like to have seen further initiatives to make this a jobs budget. The revenues raised from increases in a number of charges must be reinvested strategically to ensure growth and stability. For example, it is vital that the revenue raised from the car tax increases should be ring fenced for local authorities rather than the vague 'Exchequer deficit purposes'."
Emirates took over the Convention Centre, Dublin last week and royally entertained 925 guests from Ireland's travel and cargo industries to launch its daily Dublin – Dubai service commencing on 9th January 2012. The evening included a powerful presentation of Emirates World, a First Class Suite imported into the CCD for the occasion, and a Gala Dinner, which was accompanied by non-stop entertainment headed by none other than Lionel Richie.
Emirates' Airbus A330-200 will offer First, Business and Economy class seats for the daily 7.5-hour flight to Dubai, with onward connections to over 100 destinations worldwide, many served by the A380. Emirates SkyCargo will also offer 15 tonnes of cargo space to the Middle East.
Welcoming his 925 guests, Thierry Antinori, Emirates Executive Vice President Passenger Sales Worldwide, said: "When we commence our daily service to Dubai on 9th January 2012 Dublin will become Emirates' 29th destination in Europe and our 119th globally. Bookings for the first few weeks indicate that we are off to a very good start, so I would like to say thank you to all our travel agent and corporate travel partners.
"The Dublin team will be 25 in total, headed by Margaret Shannon as Country Manager – Ireland, and we are currently based in the Regis Building, Harcourt Centre, Harcourt Road – we will later establish a permanent base. We have also been recruiting for cabin crew in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Cork and have interviewed 500 candidates. The successful applicants will join the 250 Irish people already employed by Emirates."
To provide guests with a flavour of the Emirates inflight experience, a First Class Suite was installed in the function room for guests to try out. A prize draw also offered three chances to win flights for two to Dubai, transfers, three nights hotel accommodation, a city tour and evening desert safari – with Clare Buckley winning the Economy Class tickets, Susan Kingston the Business Class tickets, and Lisa O'Brien the top prize of First Class tickets, which also included a SeaWings flight over Dubai.
There was a great atmosphere throughout the evening, but when Lionel Richie appeared it really 'took off' and guests rushed to the stage and remained there for the whole set while Lionel presented a powerful performance.
Photo Above: The Emirates-themed façade of the Convention Centre, Dublin transformed by High Res Lighting.
Business Travel's News and Features Editor Neil Steedman tries out the First Class Suite that Emirates imported into the CCD function room for the occasion.
Emirates cabin crew line-up with Richard Vaughan, DSVP Cargo Operations Worldwide; Thierry Antinori, EVP Passenger Sales Worldwide; Margaret Shannon, Country Manager, Ireland; and Salem Obaidalla, SVP Commercial Operations Europe & Russian Federation.
Insight Vacations Offers India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka
Luxury escorted tour operator Insight Vacations has just launched its inaugural India & Nepal tours programme for 2012/2013 – with some optional extensions that include Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
The main programme features 12 itineraries, ranging from eight to 14 days, including two luxury escorted tours and four premium escorted tours covering India (including Rajasthan, Kerala and India's Wildlife).
For those who wish to venture even further afield, there is a range of six optional extensions ranging from three to five days, and covering unique destinations such as Nepal, Bhutan, the spiritual mecca of Amritsar, Sri Lanka, the Indian Jungle, and more. Each of these has been designed to complement one of the eight-day to 14-day escorted tours.
Departures for all India & Nepal tours are available from August 2012 until April 2013.
Insight has poured its 30 years of experience as a premium escorted tour operator into each and every one of these itineraries. Whether travelling on a luxury or premium tour, guests will benefit from impeccable service, authentic highlight lunches and dinners, premium hotels and historic palaces, expert Tour Directors and knowledgeable local guides plus exclusive private tours, experiential activities and luxury transport making Insight the perfect choice for India-bound clients.
Sharon Jordan, Business Manager, said: "India is one of the most diverse and culturally rich destinations in the world. However, to date it has been lacking in a quality, escorted product that provides a hassle-free holiday with high attention to detail and a focus on comfort. I can confidently say there is no finer way for travellers to experience India: the level of service and quality of accommodation, included sightseeing, private tours and experiential activities, really set us apart in the marketplace.
"Whether travelling on a luxury or premium tour, guests will benefit from impeccable service, authentic highlight lunches and dinners, premium hotels and historic palaces, expert tour directors and knowledgeable local guides – plus exclusive private tours, experiential activities and luxury transport."
Liam Lonergan of Club Travel is Inaugural Irish Travel Industry Entrepreneur of the Year
The winner of the inaugural Irish Travel Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by the Association of Foreign Airlines, the Irish Tour Operators Federation, and Irish Travel Trade News, is Liam Lonergan of Club Travel.
Ronan Flood, Managing Editor of ITTN, said: "Initially, each organisation – the Association of Foreign Airlines, the Irish Tour Operators Federation, and Irish Travel Trade News – put forward three nominees for consideration, making a possible nine. In the event there was one duplication so eight individuals or companies were nominated. We then discussed these nominations and three finalists were short-listed – CarTrawler, Liam Lonergan of Club Travel, and Tony Judge of Clubs to Hire.
"A brief questionnaire prepared by Grant Thornton was then completed by each finalist and their responses judged separately by the three organisations using an agreed weighted scoring system. These results were then independently and confidentially collated by Grant Thornton, and an agreed winner thus determined."
"Technology is Key"
Accepting the Award, Liam Lonergan said: "This is a great honour. Perhaps it should have been given to me 25 years ago when I was my most entrepreneurial and established Club Air – on the other hand that was my least successful business venture!
"Technology is the only game in town and there is nothing left but staying ahead of the game. Technology is a blessing, because it allows you to do amazing things, but it is also a curse, because it allows everyone else to do the same things."
The Three Finalists
CarTrawler was established by brothers Greg and Niall Turley and earlier this year UK private equity house ECI Partners made a substantial investment into the company.
CarTrawler is the first company to provide a next generation car rental distribution system, specialising solely in car rental solutions. The company offers car rental from over 550 car rental suppliers in 175 countries in 25,000 city and airport locations, in 29 languages, quoting in multiple currencies.
Club Travel was established by Liam Lonergan in 1971, initially traded as a tour operator, and is the original Irish specialist in consolidated, cheap and discount airfares.
Club Travel has since grown to be the largest travel management company in Ireland, currently with 125 staff and with a mix of business including consolidation, retail, corporate travel management, and brands such as HRG Ireland, Budget Travel and Destinations.
Clubs to Hire
Clubs to Hire was established by Tony Judge and Gerry McKernan in 2010 and secured the services of golf professional Paul McGinley.
Clubs to Hire enables customers to avoid the inconvenience and cost of transporting golf clubs and to choose the golf set of their dreams at airport locations – currently Alicante, Belek, Dublin, Edinburgh, Faro, Malaga and Murcia.
Photo Above: Liam Lonergan of Club Travel (centre) receives the 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Philip Airey, Irish Tour Operators Federation; Catherine Grennell-Whyte, Association of Foreign Airlines; independent chairman of the judging panel Stephen Murray, Grant Thornton Ireland; and Ronan Flood, Irish Travel Trade News.
TomTom has made its local search app TomTom Places available for Android smartphones. Users can make easier and more specific searches for shops, hotels, restaurants or tourist attractions with detailed information allowing users to refine their results and choose precisely what they are looking for.
The local search is based on TomTom's enhanced POI database of 10 million places and provides directions to the destination taking into account the current traffic situation. The application does not provide turn-by-turn navigation functionality.
"With Android's market share reaching over 50% in most countries we have significantly increased our reach," said Lucien Groenhuijzen, Managing Director of TomTom Places. "People appreciate the search results and one out of two search requests lead to a call, e-mail or visit to the website via the application."
TomTom Places' Android app is available in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and The Netherlands and is supported in the local languages. It is also being made available in Spain this month.
TomTom has teamed up with the following business listing companies to create this detailed local search tool: Truvo, Gelbe Seiten, Gule sider, 1881.no, Paginas Amarelas, Lokaldelen, De Telefoongids & Gouden Gids and Paginas Amarillas.
Customers on 11 Emirates A380s – with more to come – can now surf, share, email, or tweet their way across the Emirates network as the airline launches wi-fi Internet connectivity with industry service provider OnAir.
Customers can access the service onboard their flight using their wi-fi enabled devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops. All customers have to do is open up their device's wireless connections, log on to the OnAir network and follow the simple steps to access the Internet.
Price plans start at US$7.50 for mobile devices and US$15 on laptops for data packages. The $7.50 package should be sufficient for the average Blackberry user to stay connected all the way from Dubai to Paris – a flight of over six and one half hours.
"Emirates recognises that being connected inflight is increasingly important especially on our longer flights. Adding Internet access is going to be a vital and ubiquitous part of any inflight experience, just as it is in everyday life on the ground," said Patrick Brannelly, Vice President Corporate Communications Product, Publishing, Digital and Events. "As a result of our testing, we were able to learn a lot about what people like to do with the Internet inflight and are pleased to be able to launch with very affordable pricing options.
"Emirates has led the way in mobile phone use onboard with 91 aircraft currently allowing the service. We are obviously delighted to launch OnAir wi-fi on our A380 aircraft and we will continue to invest in additional communications products across our entire fleet."
Wi-fi services have initially launched on 11 of 19 Emirates A380s currently in-service, with the system due to be installed now and in the future across the entire fleet of 71 Emirates A380s on order. In addition to wi-fi, from mid-2012 all new Emirates A380s will be delivered with a full range of wi-fi, mobile phone and mobile data services.
"Emirates is continuously introducing the latest advanced technology to its customers for use on board our fleet," added Adel Al Redha, Emirates Executive Vice President, Engineering and Operations. "Making inflight connectivity available is a value added service that Emirates customers will highly enjoy; this is particularly true of our A380 fleet, as the aircraft is the epitome of modern airline technology. With the OnAir product onboard, Emirates ensures our passengers will enjoy being connected in the sky on our most advanced aircraft."
"The fact that Emirates has chosen OnAir connectivity services for its A380 fleet validates our strategy of developing a SwiftBroadband-based consistent global service. With the significant expansion of the Emirates A380 aircraft and global route network, it is important for passengers to access connectivity services anytime and anywhere," said Ian Dawkins, Chief Executive of OnAir.
American Airlines Announces New B777-300ER Interiors
American Airlines has announced details of the interior selections for its fleet of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, including fully lie flat First and Business Class seats, seating plans that will give the airline the opportunity to offer a premium product in the main cabin, and wi-fi capability to keep customers connected while travelling internationally. During its time of restructuring, the announcement demonstrates a continuation of the airline's efforts to enhance its fleet and become more fuel efficient.
American is scheduled to take delivery of 10 new Boeing 777-300ERs in 2012 through to 2013, with London dedicated as a first market for this aircraft, and more markets are to be announced. American is the first US airline to order the B777-300ER and will be the first US airline to take delivery of the aircraft.
"American Airlines continues to remain focused on providing a differentiated customer experience through various efforts, including the execution of our fleet renewal plan," said Virasb Vahidi, American's Chief Commercial Officer. "The addition of B777-300ER aircraft will further modernise our fleet through the integration of unique customer comforts, which are designed to create more inviting interiors and enhance the travel experience."
Arranged in a three-class cabin configuration, the new B777-300ER will provide the airline with more passenger and cargo capacity than any other aircraft in its fleet today. Customers will be welcomed into the aircraft by unique mood lighting. American will be the first carrier to use a dramatic archway and ceiling treatment on the B777-300 to create a feeling of spaciousness. A walk-up bar stocked with snacks and refreshments in the premium cabin will be a first for any US airline.
Entertainment options including up to 120 movies, more than 150 TV programmes and more than 350 audio selections will be offered throughout the aircraft. Also, every seat will feature individual 110 volt AC power outlets and USB jacks for charging personal electronic devices.
The First Class cabin will offer new Flagship Suite seats. The B777-300 will feature an updated and enhanced version of the customer-favourite Flagship Suite seat that transforms into a fully lie flat 6' 8" bed with drop-down armrests that allow for easier access and more sleeping space.
Each suite provides aisle access and allows customers to individually adjust any component of the seat for ultimate comfort. All suites will feature privacy dividers, two universal AC power outlets, one USB outlet, two large tray tables, a swivel seat and a host of other comforts, including Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headsets, designed to enhance the travel experience. A 17" touchscreen monitor will offer an array of entertainment and a touchscreen video handset will serve as a remote that allows customers to easily select programming without touching the monitor and watch additional video programmes, such as the moving map, while viewing the 17" monitor.
The First Class cabin will use updated interior trim and finishes to achieve a comfortable, modern feel throughout the cabin.
The Business Class cabin will also be outfitted with fully lie flat seats – all with aisle access. The fully lie flat seat has three motors that offer extensive flexibility and comfort. Customers can individually adjust any component of the seat, including the seat back, head rest, and leg rest.
The seats feature a large tray table in addition to a work surface. Each seat offers a water bottle holder and headset stowage – as Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headsets will be offered inflight. Seat controls have a more intuitive design for optimum customer comfort and simplicity. Entertainment will be available on a 15.4" touchscreen monitor positioned in each Business Class suite and a premium handset will serve as a remote that will allow customers to easily select programming without touching the monitor.
Seats throughout Economy Class will have a higher recline pivot, providing increased knee room. The seat bottom will articulate, producing a cradling motion to better distribute weight while increasing the recline angle of the seatback, resulting in improved overall customer comfort while protecting the personal space for customers in the following row.
Each Economy Class seat holds a 9" touchscreen Panasonic Eco Monitor, specially designed for the main cabin for inflight entertainment. The Panasonic Eco Monitor is lighter weight and more energy efficient than most standard monitors.
American will also offer an Economy Class premium seat product, which will include additional legroom for seats in the forward portion of the cabin, allowing greater personal space and convenient access when boarding and deplaning.
Published by Belgrave Group, A12 Calmount Park, Calmount Road Dublin 12, Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)1 450 2422
Website design by hensmandesign