HOTELIERS have called for the appointment of a tourism tsar to promote Ireland in Britain to tackle the “catastrophic decline” of British tourists choosing Ireland as a holiday destination.
According to the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), there has been a 30% drop in the visitors from Britain in the last two years, a figure which is double that experienced by other European competitors who have been more successful in retaining the British market.
IHF president Paul Gallagher said the figures show that Tourism Ireland’s current marketing strategy in Britain is failing and that a new vision was needed.
“The British market is in free fall. Despite substantial investment marketing Ireland to Britain, visitor numbers have fallen off a cliff.”
Mr Gallagher said the IHF recognised that economic factors have contributed to the fall in British visitors to Ireland but said the over-riding issue has been the inability of Tourism Ireland to effectively communicate Ireland as a destination.
The IHF president called on tourism minister Mary Hanafin to appoint an independent tourism tsar to lead the marketing effort in Britain.
Responding to the IHF criticisms, chief executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said figures had fallen across the globe for British visitors and that it was working hard to shed the image of Ireland as being too expensive a destination to visit.
“The good news for us is that those with an experience of Ireland are still very well disposed to Ireland and have a very strong emotional attachment and all those strong brand attributes that Ireland is good at, in terms of the friendliness of the people, the nice scenery and things we are known for, score very highly in the visitor attitude survey.”
“What has dogged us in the past few years is perceptions in relation to value for money. For example last year, 67% of people who visited Ireland cited the cost of holiday as a major disadvantage and over the last number of years this has had a significant impact in terms of word of mouth,” he said.
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