A review of 2015 and the outlook for 2016 carried out by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) hailed 2015 as a “remarkable” year for the industry, and predicted an extra 6,800 jobs in the sector next year.
The review found that overseas tourists spent just over €4.1bn while in Ireland in 2015 — a 16% increase, or almost €600m more compared to the previous year.
Irish air and sea carriers earned a further €1.3bn from tourists.
Domestic tourism demand also picked up with an estimated 6% increase in spending to €1.6bn, with a further €300m earned from visitors from Northern Ireland.
The number of tourists visiting the country jumped by 14% to top 8m — the highest number on record — with all four top source markets recording significant growth. The US, German, and French markets all returned record performances as Ireland gained a larger share of outbound tourism in these valuable source markets, while the key British market is set to record a 14% growth in visitor numbers compared to last year.
New and developing markets also performed well with a 13% year-on-year growth in visitor numbers.
ITIC chairman Paul Gallagher said the tourism sector was now one of the key drivers of the economic recovery.
“Tourism businesses currently are estimated to employ in excess of 220,000 with over one in every five new jobs created since 2011 having come in the tourism sector. The Irish tourism industry has contributed significantly to the national economic recovery,” he said.
The ITIC review found Irish tourism businesses are positive about the year ahead and are investing heavily in marketing as well as focussing on the need to continue delivering good value for money.
The group also said the Government’s decision to maintain the 9% Vat rate on tourism services continues to boost Ireland’s competitiveness and allows tourism businesses to offer better value to visitors.
The domestic market is expected to see further pick-up in the demand for short leisure breaks as personal finances improve.
The ITIC described the national target of 5% growth in overseas visitor revenue in 2016 as “eminently achievable”, and said almost 7,000 jobs could be created in the sector in the coming year.
“Tourism has much more potential for Ireland but only if the right strategies and investment policies are pursued,” said Mr Gallagher.
“ITIC believes that, based on projected tourism revenue growth of 5%, at least a further 6,800 jobs can be created in the tourism industry in 2016, one of the few industries that delivers jobs in all parts of the country.”
However, he issued a note of warning with regard to capacity, pointing out that a shortage of hotel capacity in Dublin and in other urban centres may limit the ability to attract increasing volumes of visitors.
“Dublin has significant capacity constraints and visitor number targets will not be met unless the deficit in hotel bedroom development is addressed with some urgency. ITIC is of the view that approximately 5,000 bedrooms are needed by 2020 and we await Fáilte Ireland’s report on this area which we understand is due for imminent publication. A successful Dublin is vital for tourism to prosper throughout Ireland,” said Mr Gallagher.