It might attract more than half of all foreign visitors to Ireland each year but Dublin is “under-performing” as a tourist destination.
That is the finding of a report which has proposed a blueprint for ambitious growth in overseas visitors to the capital up to 2020.
The report by the Grow Dublin Taskforce, representing tourism and business interests, expressed concern that Dublin has slipped behind other European competitors as a short holiday destination.
It pointed out that the city and the region has experienced a decline in tourist numbers and revenue since a peak in 2007, when 4.5m visitors brought €1.45bn into Dublin.
Tourism numbers were down by 18% in 2012, with related spending down 12.6%, said the taskforce chairperson, Lucy McCaffrey.
However, she also noted Dublin had shown signs of growth over the last few years.
The report found a real awareness of Dublin and all that it can offer was not fully appreciated, particularly in those market segments which offered the greatest potential for growth.
It recommended that Dublin should distinguish itself as a standalone city destination to profit from the growing trend towards more holidays of shorter duration.
The report identifies several sectors to target for growth including young adults looking for fun and social getaways, the “culturally curious”, conference guests, cruise visitors, and tourists coming for specific events like concerts, festivals or sports.
The ambitious target set by the taskforce believes visitor numbers can grow by 7% per annum and tourist spending by 8.6% over the next seven years.
In such a best-case scenario, the report claims the annual number of foreign tourists will reach 6.2m by 2020, while spending by international visitors could almost double to just under €2.5bn over the same period, resulting in the creation of 19,600 jobs.
It also warned such growth would require a significant increase in accommodation capacity, which if concentrated on hotels would see the number of rooms needing to jump by up to 30% on current levels.
Speaking at the launch, Leo Varadkar, the tourism minister, acknowledged that the recovery in tourism was stronger in Dublin than other parts of the country.
However, he added: “Dublin is not in competition with the rest of Ireland for international visitors. It is in competition with other cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Vienna.”
Fáilte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn said there was a danger Dublin’s tourism brand would become “a bit stale” without reinventing its appeal to foreign visitors.
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