Confidence in the tourism sector has reached its highest level since the economic downturn, with most service providers stating 2015 is likely to be their best year for business in the past decade.
A majority of operators also remain confident that business will improve further next year.
The latest tourism barometer published by Fáilte Ireland shows 70% of those working in the tourism industry reported an increase in trade so far this year.
According to the Fáilte Ireland business sentiment index, just 7% of respondents claimed business in the year to date was down on 2014 levels.
The mood contrasts sharply with sentiment in 2009 — the first full-year of the economic crash — when three-quarters of tourism businesses experienced a fall-off in trade.
The report also said it was too soon to tell what impact the Ancient East tourism initiative, launched in April, was having on visitor numbers, although most tourism providers agreed it is a good concept.
The initiative, regarded as the eastern seaboard’s equivalent of the Wild Atlantic Way, promotes the region’s rich history and heritage.
Some reservations were also expressed about a lack of accommodation capacity in Dublin, raising fears it could result in a loss of competitiveness with some providers pushing up prices to capitalise on demand.
Tourism accommodation providers have reported an excellent year so far, with 78% recording growth over 2014 figures.
The B&B sector, which struggled more than sectors such as hotels in recent years, has shown very good signs of recovery, with 70% of B&B operators saying that business was up this year.
However, they are also more cautious than hotel owners about the winter season, with only a third of B&B providers predicting growth in trade over the next few months, compared to 73% of hotels.
The Fáilte Ireland report said the less positive outlook within the B&B sector might be a reflection of the more seasonal nature of their business compared to hotels.
Nearly two thirds of self-catering providers reported more bookings during 2015, largely due to strong performances by the US and British markets.
Fáilte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn said the Irish tourism industry had enjoyed the impact favourable exchange rates had for British and American tourists who received more euros for their pounds and dollars.
“Tourism appears now to be firing on all pistons with every sector of the industry now enjoying greater growth,” said Mr Quinn. “We have been particularly blessed this year by favourable currency rates but these aren’t steadfast and it will be important for tourism businesses to ensure they are not stranded if that tides goes out.”
Mr Quinn said the visitor experience of Ireland as a better value destination would be crucial because of the importance of repeat visitors to the Irish tourism market.
The mood was less positive in the caravan and camping sector with 83% of operators citing bad weather as a factor in the fact that a large proportion recorded a fall in business among domestic tourists. Fáilte Ireland said that a wetter summer this year, compared to a warm and dry 2014, had impacted negatively on weather-dependent businesses such as golf clubs, caravan parks, and campsites.
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