Rural hotel bookings in decline, says Irish Hotels Federation

Group calls for Government to create regional stratedy to protect employment

Great Britain is one of the most important markets for tourism to the island of Ireland. Photograph: iStock/file photo

Great Britain is one of the most important markets for tourism to the island of Ireland. Photograph: iStock/file photo

 

Regardless of a hard or soft Brexit, bookings for regional and rural hotels and guesthouses are already in decline, with calls for the Government to formulate a regional strategy to protect rural jobs.

The calls come from members of the Irish Hotels Federation who have said regional and rural tourism is the sector most dependent on holiday makers from Britain. While Dublin and traditional tourism hot spots like Galway and the Cliffs of Moher are booming, regional room occupancy rates are down year on year.

In 2018, the average national room occupancy rate for hotels dropped to 72 per cent, compared to 74 per cent the previous year. While Dublin performed strongly with an average occupancy of 84 per cent (up 1 per cent), the rest of the country lags significantly behind with an average occupancy rate of 66 per cent (down 2 per cent).

Tourism generates over €9.4 billion in revenue for the economy and supports over 260,000 jobs throughout the country, 70 per cent of which are outside Dublin.

Great Britain is one of the most important markets for tourism to the island of Ireland. It delivers over one quarter of all overseas tourism revenue and around half of all the overseas visitors to the island. Tourism Ireland estimates that the Great Britain Market delivered €1.5bn (10 per cent) to the economies of the island in 2016.

Now Irish Hotels Federation chief executive Tim Fenn has called for a greater Government focus on the development of rural Ireland.

Speaking ahead of the Federation’s 81st Annual Conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, Mr Fenn said that national tourism performance masks serious challenges facing the industry at a time of heightened risks including uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

“We continue to have a two-tiered tourism industry, which Government policy is failing to address. While there has been good growth overall in recent years, not every tourism business or part of the country has enjoyed the same level of success,” he said.

“There are many areas where tourism remains very seasonal and hospitality businesses struggle to break even during off-peak periods. Tourism businesses in these areas still have a substantial amount of lost ground to make up since the downturn.”