ICG chief calls for more emphasis on British tourist market

Eamonn Rothwell thinks Tourism Ireland should “go for it”

 Chief executive officer Eamon Rothwell pictured during a press conference following the Annual General Meeting of Irish Continental Group in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Mac Innes Photography

Chief executive officer Eamon Rothwell pictured during a press conference following the Annual General Meeting of Irish Continental Group in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Mac Innes Photography

 

Tourism Ireland should take advantage of the “benign” economy in Britain to push for greater numbers of British tourists to visit, the chief executive of ferry company Irish Continental Group said yesterday.

Eamonn Rothwell said he did not wish to criticise Irish tourism authorities but they can be tempted to become “wound up in exotic markets” when Britain should be more of a focus.

Mr Rothwell, a former tourist board employee, said Britain was set to be the fastest growing economy in the OECD this year. This, coupled with Ireland’s existing popularity with British tourists, made it “a benign economy in which to say, ‘let’s go for it’.”

He identified the Wild Atlantic Way initiative, whereby Tourism Ireland is promoting visits to the west coast, as positive, but said more was needed.

“Go for it lads, this is ready,” he urged.

Last year three million British tourists accounted for 42 per cent of all overseas visitors to Ireland, with British tourism numbers suffering most during the recession. At a peak in 2007 Ireland welcomed some four million tourists from Britain. Resolutions Mr Rothwell was speaking after ICG held its agm in Dublin, with all resolutions passed by shareholders. The company also held a separate egm at which it won permission to sub-divide each of its share units into 10, thus reducing the market price of the units.

Yesterday afternoon ICG was trading above €28 per share but this would change to €2.80 per share (or equivalent on the day) after the sub-division takes place on June 6th, thus potentially making the company more marketable to retail investors.

Mr Rothwell said the group had seen a degree of exodus among its private client shareholders pursuant to a 2012 tender offer process and now wanted to introduce more liquidity.

He acknowledged that the share division would have more psychological than practical impact.

ICG said this week its car volumes were up 5 per cent year-on-year, while “RoRo” freight was ahead 18 per cent and container freight up 1 per cent.

Mr Rothwell said traffic on the company’s new Dublin-Cherbourg economy ferry service “looks good for the summer”, while also admitting that most passengers still “prefer comfort”. Fares on the economy service would be 10-15 per cent cheaper than the group’s other ferries, but this can vary according to the time of year.

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