Less than €1.6bn is expected to be spent in Ireland by visiting tourists this year. The figure is down nearly 70% on the €5.1bn that flooded into the economy in 2019 as the spread of Covid-19 continues to hammer the travel industry.
Those figures solely cover what tourists spend on the ground after their arrival. Representative body the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation said that when air and sea fares are added the total cost of Covid-19 to the sector balloons to over €5bn.
The cancellation of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations probably dragged down first quarter tourist spend by 60%, said the confederation. This quarter is set for an 85% yearly drop; the third quarter a 70% reduction; and the fourth quarter a 50% drop.
Within that tourism spend, the in-bound cruise liner industry which brings in millions of euro of tourism spend to our major cities every year is likely to be decimated.
Around 300 cruise ships visit Dublin, Cork and Belfast ports each year – with each ship carrying an average of 3,000 passengers. A total of 100 ships visited the Port of Cork last year, with combined passengers spending an estimated €2m in the local economy.
Dublin accounts for the bulk of Ireland’s cruise visits. Dublin Port had been expecting 150 cruise line visits this year. It still has five visits officially listed for April and 37 for May, but said June or July are more realistic dates.
However, confederation chief executive Eoghan O’Mara-Walsh said cruise visits are still only around 2% of Dublin Port’s annual revenues and are likely to be devasted by the coronavirus crisis.
“It is difficult to see any activity of any note,” he said.
One of the big operators, Saga said it could suspend all cruises and other holidays until next year under its most severe stress-test scenario for the crisis.
Saga, which had suspended its cruise offerings until May in response to the pandemic, said it was applying for waiver of some debt covenants and also for a debt holiday through March 31, 2021.
Saga caters for the over-50s market. It expects revenue for the full year to be lower by around 65% for tour operations and cruise, if the cruise business was to be suspended for six months.