€50m needed for tourism industry to fulfil potential, says group

Pádraig Hoare

Severe cuts to Tourism Ireland’s marketing budget during the recession must be reversed — with a significant chunk needed to capitalise on the surge of US and European holidaymakers to the Republic.

That is according to the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), which said the marketing spend in the US and the Continent was “absolutely vital” considering the continued drop-off in visitors from the UK due to post-Brexit exchange rates.

Maurice Pratt, chairman, and Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, chief executive, of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, at the Montenotte Hotel, Cork, for the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation council dinner yesterday. Picture: Jim Coughlan

The combined budget for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland was around €160m in 2008, ITIC’s chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said, while it was now around €120m.

“An extra €50m is required if we are going to have tourism fulfil its potential. The numbers from the US and the Continent have been very good, but are camouflaging the drop off from tourists from the UK.

“Tourism is the largest indigenous industry we have, employing 230,000 across the country.

“We talk of the importance of foreign direct investment but tourism is one of the only sectors that can provide true regional balance. We must take the opportunities coming our way,” said Mr O’Mara Walsh.

According to CSO figures, the number of visitors increased from just under 1.8m in the first quarter of 2017 to over 1.9m in the first quarter this year.

The number of nights spent increased by 12% in the first quarter compared to last year, up from 11.1m to 12.5m.

Total tourism and travel earnings from overseas travellers to Ireland increased by more than 14%, from €945m to €1.07bn, according to the CSO.

In 2017, there was a record 1.83m North American visitors, according to Tourism Ireland. The body has targeted an increase in US and Canadian visitor numbers of more than 5% in 2018, as well as an increase in revenue of more than 7%.

Visitor numbers from the UK to Ireland are down by 5% following the Brexit referendum result, according to Fáilte Ireland.

Mr O’Mara Walsh said: “Market diversification is needed in the wake of the Brexit vote and the fall in sterling, especially in the US and Europe, but that is going to require a sustained investment and strategy.”

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