Staff shortages and Brexit threaten hotels boom

International tourists brought in just under €6.5bn last year, up 8.5% from 2015 but a shortage of qualified staff could stall the momentum of the hotel industry, an AIB report has suggested.

AIB’s hotels outlook for 2017 said that while a record 9.6m visitors visited Ireland in 2016 in the midst of the hotel industry performing well, the dropoff from UK visitors and a shortage of chefs could impact negatively.

Director of hotel tourism and leisure at Crowe Horwath, Mairea Doyle-Balfe said in the report that the more “immediate challenges” facing the sector include staffing, currency fluctuation, increased operational costs and the need for some hotels to invest in their premises.

“There is a skills shortage in certain departments in hotels. Chefs for example are highly sought after across the industry. Due to the nature of the business, hotels are also finding it hard to retain good staff, particularly in Dublin where it’s a lot more transient and staff can move around a lot more,” she said.

She said that the lack of large conference venues, access from Dublin Airport, and the need for more public transport in and out of the city, were all issues that need to be dealt with in.

AIB tourism head David McCarthy said the medium-term outlook for hotel operators was very positive and that tourism could benefit because of security concerns in the rest of Europe. “Along with Italy and Portugal, Ireland would be seen as a safe haven destination and has benefited as a result.

“Recent terrorist acts in the likes of Istanbul, Paris, London and Brussels have damaged consumer confidence with a resulting impact on revenue per available room in these locations,” he said.

Mr McCarthy said the uncertainty surrounding Brexit meant hoteliers had to diversify. “With 42% of visitors in 2016 coming from Britain, the hotel industry across the whole of Ireland could be impacted by currency movements and the implementation of hard borders.

“It would be remiss of hoteliers not to understand who their customer base is and in cases where they are largely reliant on visitors from Great Britain, to seek to diversify,” he said.

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