Tourism outlook best in decade as visitor numbers rise

Optimism about tourism is its highest in a decade and the number of overseas visitors to Ireland has grown this year.

A Fáilte Ireland survey of 600 tourism businesses found that 72% were upbeat about tourism performance in 2016 and about prospects for the rest of the year.

The figure is up two percentage points on last year, and rising steadily since the low of 2009.

Most hoteliers and guesthouse operators enjoyed a lucrative summer, compared to last year.

  • Four out of five hoteliers (79%) recorded increased profits;
  • Profits up for two thirds (69%) of guesthouses;
  • More than half of hotels (63%) and guesthouses (54%) took on new staff;
  • 84% of hoteliers, and 76% of guesthouses, experienced a rise in business.

The Fáilte Ireland chief executive, Shaun Quinn, said many businesses recorded their best season ever. However, he warned against complacency.

Key factors included the compelling visitor experience, increased carrier capacity, and a favourable exchange rate with the US dollar.

Mr Quinn said strategies that could undermine Ireland’s reputation for good value must be avoided.

The quarterly report shows some concerns: Operating costs, excluding fuel and energy, are issues for 39% of enterprises.

The challenge of Brexit has become a common concern — 44% of businesses mentioned it. Britain’s withdrawal from EU membership was the single most important concern for all those surveyed.

“The main reasons for the concern are the uncertainty over what will happen, the drop in value of the pound, making the Republic of Ireland more expensive for UK visitors, and the possible ‘hassle’ that UK visitors might face with border controls,” said a Fáilte Ireland spokesperson.

However, he said that rather than panicking, there was uncertainty among tourism operators, which was backed by a resolve to make the most of any outcome.

Nevertheless, just 27% of paid, serviced accommodation providers expect growth from Britain over the next few months. Those providers are pessimistic, even though 47% have experienced more British business so far this year.

There is uncertainty, too, about the implication of the vote by the UK to leave the European Union and the current impact of the situation on exchange rates”.

Mr Quinn said early indications were that next year would be one of opportunity, with further growth from North America and mainland Europe expected.

Mr Quinn said Fáilte Ireland would be intensifying efforts to support regional and seasonal business-expansion in specific growth segments, pointing out that the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East brands were now performing well.


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