Ireland can increase tourist numbers by 50% to 12 million in the next five years, but only if the offering is dramatically improved, says Ryanair’s marketing guru Kenny Jacobs.
He told a conference yesterday however that Ireland as a tourist destination is not the “Premier League” as the industry is too expensive.
Speaking at the Annual Tourism Policy Workshop at Dromoland Castle in Co Clare, Mr Jacobs said that Ireland must strike “an amazing, never-been-done-before deal with AirBnB” to address the room shortage in the industry.
The Government must not cave into demands from unions for pay increases, as it will lead to fewer funds being available for tourism, he said.
Mr Jacobs said that the views of one union official that Irish tourism is “maxed out” and that reintroducing the travel tax and getting rid of the 9% Vat rate for the hospitality industry to pay for the public service pay bill was “absolute lunacy”.
On the tourism product available here, Mr Jacobs said: “We don’t have a Premier League tourism product. I think it is very, very, very good but I think we can make it better.”
He said: “The principal reason is that we are really, really expensive and there are a lot of countries that offer similar to what Ireland offers but much cheaper.”
Mr Jacobs said that from Ryanair’s own research the feedback was: “I am not going to Dublin. I am not going to Ireland because I can’t get a decent hotel at a price I am willing to pay.”
“We need to wake up to this reality”, he said, adding that Ireland was the fifth most expensive place in the EU to visit. “Dublin is a very expensive city to come and visit. If this gets worse, it is going to be a massive factor and anyone who thinks any differently, you are deluded,” he said.
“It is all about value for money. The Irish product is good, but it is not good enough to sustain people coming here paying €6 for a pint.
“We have done a great job with the Wild Atlantic Way, but I think it is reaching saturation point now and what is going to be next?
“I think the Ancient East, which is the next product from Tourism Ireland, is going to be a harder sell because the Ancient East in Ireland ... not even Irish people get it,” he said.
Mr Jacobs said that the country needs a 25% increase in hotel rooms in the next three years. However, he doesn’t believe this can happen in the timeframe and the Government should strike a deal with AirBnB to bring through more accommodation. Mr Jacobs said that it is appalling that only 2.8m continental Europeans come to Ireland, compared with the 3.4m British people.
“It is in the German, Italian and Spanish markets we should be spending our marketing dollars,” he said.
Mr Jacobs said that Dublin has the great majority of Ryanair’s Irish routes “because the roads were too good”, which allowed people from Cork to drive to Dublin.
Mr Jacobs told the conference that “long haul from Cork is a great idea and if Norwegian Airways do get to do Cork to New York, we are fully supportive of this and we are talking to Norwegian about feeding their long-haul operations”.
The application by Norwegian Airways has been held up amid objections from US trade unions about the pay and conditions Norwegian plans for the route out of Ireland.
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