Hospitality industry concerned by poor domestic demand

Hotels conference to hear how sector created 23,000 jobs in the past three years

Tim Fenn, chief executive, Irish Hotels Federation (left) and Michael Vaughan, president of the IHF in Trim, Co. Meath, today. Photograph: Eamonn Keogh

Tim Fenn, chief executive, Irish Hotels Federation (left) and Michael Vaughan, president of the IHF in Trim, Co. Meath, today. Photograph: Eamonn Keogh

Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 16:07

The hospitality sector has created more than 23,000 jobs since 2011 – aided largely by lower vat rates and the Gathering 2013, an industry conference will tell Government over the coming days.

Key speakers at the Irish Hotels Federation conference which gets underway in Trim, Co Meath tomorrow, will produce figures which show the tourism industry as a whole now supports almost 200,000 jobs - equivalent to 11 percent of total employment in the country. Some 54,000 of those jobs are in the hotels sector.

But while hoteliers and guest house owners are well pleased with Government initiatives in the overseas market, they will point to a static performance in domestic take up of hotel and guesthouse rooms.

Between overseas and domestic visitors hotels reported only a 1 per cent increase in room occupancy levels – a performance held back by lagging domestic demand.

Individual hotels will admit room rates are still heavily discounted with some four and five star hotels offering off-season breaks for under €70 for a double room with breakfast.

Speaking on the eve of the Irish Hotels Federation’s (IHF) 76th Annual Conference, chief executive Tim Fenn said additional overseas visitors provided a boost, particularly to premises located in large urban areas and tourism hotspots.

Overseas visitors grew by 469,000 to 6.99 million in 2013, up 7.2percent, but these were not spread evenly across the country. Many rural hotels continued to face the twin pressures of weak domestic demand and difficulties encouraging overseas visitors to venture outside the traditional tourism locations.

“We’re effectively seeing a three-speed recovery with Dublin city centre positioned in the fast lane and tourism hotspots such as Cork, Galway and Killarney doing fairly well. Unfortunately, rural areas such as the Midlands, Shannon and North West are lagging behind due to their over-dependence on local consumer spending.”

According to the Federation figures the 2013 regional room occupancy levels were:

• Overall: 61%, (2012: 60%)

• Dublin: 70%, (2012: 69%)

• East and Midlands: 46%, (2012: 45%

• South East: 58%, (2012: 58%)

• South West: 58%, (2012: 61%)

• Shannon: 56%, (2012: 50%)

• West: 63%, (2012: 62%)

• North West: 54%, (2012: 53%)

Total revenue generated across all tourism-related businesses in 2013 was up 5 per cent at €5.7 billion and accounted for 4 per cent GNP. Of this, €4.3 billion was attributed to foreign exchange earnings (overseas visitors). Home-grown tourism was flat with revenues from the domestic market up 1 per cent at €1.4 billion, but significantly down on pre-recession levels.

The 76th annual Irish Hotels Federation annual Conference will be addressed by Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar, on Tuesday and on Tuesday night Taoiseach Enda Kenny will give the key note address at a gala dinner.