Cork business backs tourism stimulus

Cork businesses have backed calls for a €12m stimulus package for the tourism industry in the wake of falling UK visitors following sterling’s post-Brexit vote slump.

A survey conducted by Cork Chamber of Commerce found 77% of respondents endorsed the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) call for a €12m annual fund to minimise the Brexit effect on tourism.

West Cork has traditionally benefited from British tourists, while East and South Cork are also popular.

Latest figures from the CSO show that while there has been a 21% spike in North American visitors to Ireland, visitors from Britain dropped 6.4% in the first half of the year. Britain has long been the most important market for Irish tourism.

Cork Chamber president Bill O’Connell said: “There is a lot of awareness around borders, customs, imports, and exports, which undoubtedly are major threats that need to be addressed as high priorities.

“However, with visitor numbers from the UK dropping, it is widely acknowledged by our member base that further supports are needed to protect the tourism sector from the vulnerabilities of Brexit.”

Mr O’Connell said it was “critical that protection of Ireland’s most indigenous employment sector is high on the agenda” in Brexit strategies.

Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy said time was of the essence when it came to consolidating tourism because of the potential jobs on the line.

“One in nine Irish jobs depend on tourism. Tourism Ireland’s marketing budget urgently needs to be increased so we as a country can fight to retain our UK visitor numbers and diversify into new markets.

“The time to act is now. It would be too late to wait until after Brexit has happened to take effective action on tourism,” he said.

ITIC has said a 10% drop in UK visitors would result in 6,000 job losses here, and that three-quarters of the €12m should go to marketing Ireland — both in terms of consolidating market share in Britain and increasing business further afield — and the rest to making the tourism industry “battle ready” for Brexit via supports and training services.

Chief executive of ITIC, Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, said recently that the Government has to “step up to the plate” to rescue tourism from the impact of Brexit in the wake of the UK election because it is “much too important to the regional economy to be taken for granted”.

Fáilte Ireland’s tourism barometer has found counties in the north and west of the Republic were particularly badly hit by falling numbers.

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