Hoteliers strike note of caution as Brexit looms

Hoteliers at the IHF conference in Kilkenny. Picture: Don MacMonagle

It was all going so swimmingly for hotels and guesthouses in Ireland for the first six months of last year — until Brexit happened.

As the prospect of a drop in visitors from Ireland’s most important market looms, hoteliers are looking to other markets such as Germany and France, following strong growth in visitors in 2016.

This year’s Irish Hotels Federation annual conference began in Kilkenny yesterday.

According to an industry survey of hotels and guesthouses, most say business levels are up compared to this time last year and they are also seeing an increase in advance bookings for the year.

However, while hoteliers nationally have a positive outlook for 2017, on the back of a record year for tourism in 2016, their optimism is tinged with caution.

Half of those surveyed say the fall in sterling has already had a direct effect on their business.

The strong growth in business levels from the US looks set to continue in 2017 with almost half of hotels and guesthouses reporting a rise.

Visitor numbers from German and French markets are proving buoyant, with one third of premises reporting an increase in German visitors so far this year and nearly one in five benefiting from increased business from France.

Hoteliers are also upbeat for the remainder of the year as advance bookings from these markets at this point seem robust. Almost half are reporting an increase in bookings from the US, while three in 10 are seeing a rise in bookings from Germany, while one in six say bookings are up from France.

The impact of domestic tourism cannot be underestimated either.

Already this year, two thirds of hotels and guesthouses are reporting an increase in business levels from homegrown visitors with most also seeing a rise in advance bookings too.

Yet, Brexit is consuming minds. Mr Dolan said: “It is our biggest tourism market and while we are seeing growth from other EU and long haul markets, that new growth needs to be faster and sustainable if it is to have any real prospect of replacing the value and numbers of our nearest neighbours.”

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