Industry confident of growth in tourism
There are some “positive signs” for tourism next year following a “disappointing” year in 2012, the umbrella body for the tourism industry said yesterday.
“We are firmly of the view that the dip has bottomed out,” Irish Tourist Industry Confederation chief executive Eamonn McKeon said.
The confederation was looking back on a year which saw a 4 per cent drop in visitors from Britain, the market that accounts for almost 45 per cent of visitors to the Republic.
The “modest recovery” in visitors from mainland Europe and North America (up by 2 per cent) in 2012 was “insufficient to compensate” for a drop in visitors (100,000 visits) from Britain, the confederation said in its annual review and outlook.
However, it was looking forward to a year which includes diaspora initiative the Gathering and the implementation of a new plan for the British market.
While tourism levels would not be returning next year to the heights of the 2000s, the growth would be “solid and sustained”, Mr McKeon said.
The market in the United States and Canada is the one the industry is most “bullish about”.
“We’ll be disappointed if we don’t get double-digit growth from the US and Canada,” Mr McKeon said.
Last year’s growth in the US and Canada was boosted by the Navy-Notre Dame football game in September which saw visitors up by one-fifth.
The Gathering gives Ireland a “stand-out” feature in attracting American visitors and will be complemented by an increase of 20 per cent in transatlantic capacity next year, the confederation said.
Based on early bookings, the confederation estimates the Gathering will bring an additional 325,000 visitors from the US and Canada. It could boost overall arrivals by 5 per cent, it said.
US “tour operators are very enthused about the Gathering”, said confederation chairman John Healy, who is also a director of Abbey Travel.
The industry hopes for a 5 per cent increase in British visitors with a joint State and industry plan called the “GB Plan to Growth”.
“We have got to engage with recovery from Britain,” Mr McKeon said.
The industry aims to change the way the island is marketed with more “experiential tourism”.
“Research suggests the product we have is okay, but we don’t present it as we ought. Today’s tourists are different and want to engage with local people and have experiences,” he Mr McKeon said.