Hotel sector boosted by US and European visitors

UK tourism a ‘significant concern’ despite increase in UK tourists in May

An increasing number of visitors from North America and continental Europe has boosted business in the hotel sector, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said, noting that the volume of UK visitors remains a "significant concern".

In an industry survey the lobby group found that 70 per cent of hoteliers recorded an increase in business, but one in five see their advance bookings for the rest of the summer down compared to last year. This drop relates to an anecdotal fall in UK business.

Almost half believe UK business has taken a hit, however, figures from Fáilte Ireland suggest the dip is relatively muted, down to 3.4 million visitors last year compared to 3.6 million in 2016.

Meanwhile the volume of visitors from mainland Europe increase 5 per cent to 3.25 million last year while the number of North American tourists increased 16 per cent to 1.7 million.



The domestic market remains buoyant, the IHF said, with 60 per cent of hoteliers noting an increase in Irish business compared to the previous year.

"Despite the upturn, not every tourism business is enjoying the same level of success and the hotel sector is still a number of years away from achieving sustainability in certain regional areas," said Michael Lennon, president of the IHF.

Another feature of the industry’s turnaround in fortunes is employment growth, with the IHF forecasting an additional 40,000 jobs to be created by 2021.

“Almost half of hoteliers expect to increase their staffing levels over the next year with opportunities available across all areas of business,” Mr Lennon said.

In a similar vein the improving business is enabling hoteliers to invest in their business with 94 per cent planning to invest in capital expenditure projects over the next 12 months.

Mr Lennon also used the opportunity of the survey to highlight the reduced 9 per cent VAT rate for the industry and said the industry was a vulnerable one, highlighted by the “substantial fall in visitor numbers during 2017 from the UK”.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office for UK visitors in May show a 6.8 per cent increase compared to the same month last year with 349,900 tourists travelling to Ireland. That trend was repeated in February and Aril while January and March both saw a fall in the number of UK visitors compared to the same months in 2017.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business