Activity in the business tourism sector is back up at two-thirds of levels seen before the pandemic but it could be two years before it completes its recovery, according to the Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers (AIPCO).
The group announced the figure as members gathered for their 10th annual Business Tourism Conference at Carton House in Co Kildare on Friday.
Association members had been delivering more than 175 conferences a year, attracting more than 45,000 delegates and, according to its figures, contributing €54 million towards the overall business tourism value of €750 million to the Irish economy up to early 2020.
Since then, the group has advocated for State support as members worked to withstand the economic shock of the pandemic.
AIPCO chairwoman Colette Duggan said the industry had endured some "incredibly dark days" during the pandemic, but is now on the path to recovery.
“Resilience is a core attribute of our members and teams,” she said. “We know we’ve had some incredibly dark days.
“However I’m delighted to say that as we enter the second quarter of this year, our members are on average reporting business to be back to 65 per cent of that seen in 2019. The hope is that we will be back to 2019 figures in full by 2024.”
Ms Duggan said the group is working to attract new talent into business tourism, as well as retain that which is already there.
“We are actively reaching out to third-level institutions and their heads of business and event management studies to ensure we effectively attract new talent into business tourism and retain them for many years to come,” she said.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin opened the event where 180 delegates from businesses across the country had gathered to discuss issues affecting the industry.
“We must strive to regrow and reshape our tourism ecosystem in a smarter, more resilient and more sustainable way,” she said.
“We are very much looking forward to welcoming back business delegates and I understand there is a lot of interest in Ireland as a host destination.
“With our infrastructure, key economic drivers, destination appeal and accessibility, there’s no better place to meet and do business. Business tourism is a highly specialised and high-yielding sector – generating almost three times more revenue than leisure tourists.”