As many as 1,000 pubs could close over the next decade, according to the author of a new report into the economic impact of the drinks trade on the tourism sector.
Anthony Foley of the Dublin City University Business School said 1,000 pubs, mostly in rural areas, closed between 2007 and the end of last year, sparked by the economic crash.
He said a similar number could be expected to close down over the next decade, as “no magic solution” was likely to be found to retain their economic viability.
“A reasonable figure would be in the past six years we have lost 1,000 pubs, in particularly bad economic circumstances,” he said.
“In the next 10 years I would not be surprised if we lost another 1,000.”
He made his comments following the publication of a report, The Contribution of the Drinks Industry to Tourism, commissioned by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland.
Using available data, it highlights how 80% of tourists surveyed by Fáilte Ireland said they most wanted to experience a visit to an Irish pub during their stay, while 83% of overseas visitors surveyed on leaving Ireland said they had experienced listening to Irish music in a traditional pub during their stay.
However, while the report highlights how the Irish pub is essentially the country’s top tourist attraction, spearheaded by the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which attracted more than 1m visitors last year, the fate of the suburban and rural pub is less certain.
The publication of the report was backed by a seminar in Dublin, launching a new ‘Support Your Local’ campaign.
Mr Foley said: “The first thing we are going to do is recognise that we are not going to save all the pubs.”
Of likely pub closures he said: “That is going to continue — there is not going to be a miracle solution.”
However, he said government could reduce excise duties to give more pubs “a fighting chance” and also urged action to reduce the price gap between alcohol for sale in pubs, and alcohol for sale in off-licences.
He also said education was needed to change attitudes towards alcohol abuse and to allow pubs to be places where drinking soft drinks and coffee was not just “tolerated”.
Bart Storan, campaign manager for ‘Support Your Local’, said “punitive excise increases in the last two budgets” had harmed pubs and thereby the tourism sector and needed to be reversed.
“Pubs are closing and the small businesses that make up the industry are struggling to stay afloat,” he said.
The report also highlighted how the Jameson and Midleton Distilleries, among others, attract thousands of tourists every year.
The research showed that Co Longford had the fewest number of pubs, at 87, from a national network of 7,315. By contrast, Cork has 980 pubs.
The report also listed the range of events sponsored by drinks firms, although Mr Foley admitted that Arthur’s Day had come in for some criticism in recent years.
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