8,000 jobs lost in tourism and hospitality industry
Employment in the tourism and hospitality industry fell for the first time in a decade last year, according to the latest data from CERT, the State training body which co-ordinates education, recruitment and training in tourism.
Around 8,000 tourism and hospitality jobs were lost in 2001 as the industry was hit by a succession of shocks from foot-and-mouth disease, the global economic downturn and the fall-off in US tourists following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the CERT business and employment survey said.
Just under 2,000 of the job losses were permanent jobs, with the remainder confined to casual and part-time jobs.
"Any job loss is a tragedy for the people involved and is always disappointing to the sector," said Mr Eamonn McKeon.
"But we should qualify the job losses that occurred in tourism last year. We estimate that there were about 8,000 in total. Of those, 75 per cent were part-time, seasonal jobs and that's not to belittle the importance of seasonal work, but the loss in full-time jobs was not great."
CERT estimates that business activity fell by 3 per cent to 5 per cent over the year. Total employment in the industry is now estimated at 246,500.
Employment in hotels and restaurants, which together accounted for more than 100,000 jobs in 2000, fell by 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. Within the licensed trade, employment fell by 2 per cent.
The number of vacancies reported by firms halved between 2000 and 2001. Hotels reported 1,800 vacancies in 2001, down from 4,000 in 2000. In the restaurant sector, the number of vacancies fell from 5,000 to 2,000.
This year is expected to be another challenging one for the industry, according to the CERT survey. The findings indicate that 60 per cent of tourism businesses believe that prospects for the coming year are no better than in 2001.
Over half of all businesses have altered their business strategies for the year ahead to combat an unexpected downturn in market demand.
CERT's data showed that the numbers of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants grew by less than 1 per cent last year. "It would be unrealistic to expect the industry to recover fully in 2002 after such a difficult year," said Mr McKeon."However, Irish tourism has proven to be a resilient industry in the past and we can expect to recover some of the lost ground in the coming year."
He said he expected the first six months of the year to be difficult. "To achieve anything around six million visitors this year would be considered good," he said.
He described the UK market as the "great hope", with the US market continuing to lag in the first half and the continental European market requiring further development.