Tourism sector expecting more visitors in 2013 as bookings rise
Optimism in the tourism industry has returned to levels not seen since the height of the boom in 2007, according to Fáilte Ireland’s annual tourism industry review.
Revenue from overseas tourists increased by €100 million to €4 billion last year, the first time since 2008 there has been such an increase.
Further growth is expected this year, with The Gathering giving a boost to bookings, which are already up on last year, especially from the US. Some 84 per cent of the tourism business surveyed by Fáilte Ireland is expecting a better performance in 2013 than last year.
The sector is hopeful that The Gathering will make a difference to visitor numbers, which it hopes will increase by 325,000, or 5 per cent.
There are now 2,562 events, with a further 60 to 70 in the pipeline. Approximately 30 per cent of The Gathering events are existing festivals which will have a dimension of The Gathering added to them. The optimism is especially prevalent in the hotel sector, which increased occupancy last year from 59 per cent to 63 per cent, with Dublin hotels doing especially well from a surge in business tourism numbers. However, some 68 per cent of bed and breakfast owners reported a decrease in revenues last year.
Overseas visitor numbers, at 6.3 million, were static. The North American and European markets showed an increase in numbers of 2 per cent, and there was a 5 per cent increase in numbers from long-haul destinations.
However, the problematic British market was down 3 per cent, continuing a downward trend since 2007. The number of holidaymakers from the UK, as opposed to those making a business, personal or family trip, is half what it was in 2008, when 1.6 million British visitors were recorded. In 2011 it was 800,000.
The decline in the British market is the subject of a hard-hitting report commissioned by the Irish tourism industry.
It states that the main barrier to attracting more British tourists is that there are other places they would rather go; that the country is perceived as being expensive.
Fáilte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn said confidence in the tourism industry was returning and employment numbers were up 5 per cent, to 185,000, last year.
“Inquiries from some of the key markets are very strong. Air access looks very good, up 20 per cent from the US. There’s a very strong feel good factor for the coming year.”
Figures produced by the Central Statistics Office yesterday show a 4 per cent increase in overseas visitors for the three-month period from September to November.
The German market was particularly buoyant last year, with a rise of 12 per cent in visitor numbers.
Irish Hotels Federation president Paul Gallagher said there was a great deal of optimism, particularly in the big towns.