Tourism chiefs have hailed an exceptional start to the year for the industry — but warned of the unravelling of competitiveness as the euro strengthens against sterling.
Fáilte Ireland, responsible for co-ordinating marketing of the tourism industry, also said the “omens are good” for the rest of the year as it unveiled its annual holidaymakers’ survey ahead of an annual trade fair.
The number of airline seats into Ireland this summer will be up 10% from last year, while Dublin hotels report “extremely high occupancy levels”; tourism businesses all along the Wild Atlantic Way say domestic visitors contributed to a very busy Easter; while an influx of French, German, Dutch, and Swiss travellers is helping to extend the early season.
Despite some weakening of the strength of sterling against the euro in recent months, visitors from the North are boosting business in counties Sligo and Donegal, while businesses in South Kerry say enquiries have increased because of the effects of the filming of Star Wars on Skellig Michael, according to the tourism authority.
And Fáilte Ireland says in another of its promoted regions — “the Ancient East” — that US tourists and the “UK retiree market” are boosting accommodation bookings.
However, the tourism body warns that the favourable currency exchange rate that had helped make the Republic so attractive to tourists holding sterling and dollars last year, could be ending.
“The signs look good and there is great cause for optimism within tourism this year but there are also good reasons not to be too complacent,” said Shaun Quinn, chief executive at Fáilte Ireland.
“The recent weakening of sterling in relation to the euro means we have to remain vigilant with regard to competitiveness.
“Furthermore, recent incidents in Paris and Brussels have the potential for undermining travel confidence, particularly from the US. In Fáilte Ireland we are taking nothing for granted,” Mr Quinn said.
Its latest survey of overseas tourists’ experiences of Ireland, published yesterday, showed that a majority of visitors last year believed their holidays provided good or very good value.
Friendly people; security; the scenery; the range of attractions and sights; and history and culture were given as the top reasons for deciding to travel in Ireland.
Some 5% thought they got poor value for their money.
Two thirds of holidaymakers said that they would be back soon, while 39% hoped to return at some time. “While the research is very encouraging, with regard to how visitors perceive their time here, we still have to work hard to get people here in the first instance,” Mr Quinn said. “A strong level of competitiveness ensures that we attract visitors here in the first instance.”
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