After 2001 slipped badly when the number of visitors fell 5%, the hope was that 2002 would see the lost ground recovered. Early indications are that the sector is still traumatised following the impact of foot and mouth and the shakeout from September 11. Current indications are that the industry will be hard-pushed to hold the 2001 line, while industry sources say it is still too early to be emphatic about the final outcome.
Next year is also set to present a further major challenge to the market.
All parts of the industry have suffered this year. Bad weather has been a huge factor, and the home market, which filled some of the gap last year when Americans stopped travelling, has not done the business this year.
Irish Tourist Industry Confederation chief executive Brendan Leahy said the weather was a “huge” factor in the home market this year, not to mention the World Cup, which took a lot of demand out of the home market.
Mr Leahy said it was too early to be definitive about the outcome for 2002, but the reality is that some of the potential positive factors “we were counting on did not deliver as expected.” With US trade down by up to 20%, hotels are suffering. Given tourism’s national reach, its impact on key tourism areas such as the west and south west has been pretty severe.
US figures of 850,000 visitors estimated for last year compares with 960,000 in 2000. The 850,000 figure pushes visitor levels from the US back to where they were in 1996.