Tourism data deficit
The most basic tool in an efficiently run organisation is good intelligence. Some decades ago, one of the most common complaints by economists and planners revolved around the lack of high quality, up-to-date statistics. Their absence contributed to administrative failures, particularly in the provision of schools, healthcare and other facilities. And while the situation has improved, representatives of the Irish Hotels Federation complain their industry is being starved of information that would allow it to develop niche markets and engage in more efficient planning.
As one of the biggest employers in the State, with yearly revenues of almost ¤6 billion, tourism deserves particular attention from government. When hoteliers ask that the Central Statistics Office should be encouraged to conduct frequent and more detailed surveys of visitors and their requirements, Minister for Transport and Tourism Leo Varadkar should pay attention. The VAT changes he introduced for the sector did help, but more needs to be done. In particular, good and frequent intelligence is required about where foreign visitors go, their requirements, and how their holidays could be improved. Sample surveys of a few thousand tourists out of eight million provide an inadequate basis for planning.
Irish Hotels Federation president Michael Vaughan criticised policymakers for a lack of insight and the statistics office for a lack of data, at their annual conference in Killarney.
A lack of detailed information reduced the effectiveness of international marketing campaigns, he said, while greater emphasis should be placed on attracting business conferences and promoting the regions. Such criticisms are understandable in an industry that became uncompetitive during the boom years and is now competing for shrinking public resources. Better intelligence would certainly help the sector with marketing and regional planning and contribute to more rapid and evenly based growth.