Cork is primed for a €1bn annual tourism boon in the next three years with almost 1,000 new hotel rooms adding to supply but a shortage will squeeze visitor growth in Kilkenny and Galway.
Those were the major findings of a Fáilte Ireland report on the need for new hotel rooms, which said that as tourist numbers rose more than 20% over the next five years, it would put pressure on current stock levels.
Cork’s 35% projected hotel room growth by 2022 puts it in a good place to take full advantage of all future growth opportunities, the report said.
Fáilte Ireland said the targets set in a previous plan had already been surpassed, with its data indicating that over 2.7m tourists visited the county in 2017, generating revenues of more than €830m.
That 2016 plan by the Cork Strategic Tourism Task Force had targeted a 20% growth in visits to Cork by 2020, and an increase in revenue by over 25% to more than €1bn annually.
There are 14 hotel projects in Cork — seven new and seven extensions — with close to 1,400 additional rooms in prospect if all projects came to fruition.
While all are unlikely to be delivered due to various issues such as planning, the tourism body said it expected 930 of those rooms to be in place by 2022.
Kilkenny must add bed capacity to accommodate future growth, or risk losing out on the influx of expected tourists.
Available evidence suggests that there has been considerable investment in Kilkenny hotels in the last year, but almost all of this has been in food and beverage facilities or in refurbishing existing bedroom stock, Fáilte Ireland said.
Although Kilkenny is a so-called flagship city under its Ancient East brand, the report said the lack of available hotel rooms was a factor in it missing out on overnight stays, with short-term visitors instead staying overnight in Dublin.
Over the coming years, just 40 more rooms are anticipated for Kilkenny city and its immediate hinterland, the report said.
Galway should see an additional 490 rooms, or 17% growth in hotel room stock, by the end of 2022, according to Fáilte Ireland, despite it being the “foremost tourism destination among the three cities” in its report, driven by its strong brand and its event-driven tourism calendar, the body said.
Visitors to Galway were on a par with those of Cork last year generating nearly €840m in revenue.Overseas tourists account for the majority of demand, though domestic demand also accounts for a substantial proportion, the report said.
The growth in domestic demand has contributed to more off-peak visitors, but Galway nonetheless still retains a highly seasonal visitor market, it showed.
Domestic business accounts for around 60% of revenue for hoteliers in the city, but the business base is still not as strong as in Cork.
Fáilte Ireland-registered accommodation in Galway is dominated by hotels with 2,900 rooms.
There has been an overall growth in the stock of about 150 rooms, or 5%, this year.
Meanwhile, a meeting of hoteliers and management staff in Dublin emphasised the need for more rooms in the capital. The Bank of Ireland event heard that under-capacity was spreading with rooms in short supply in various locations during periods of heightened demand.