The British are coming – but only if sterling holds up

Chasing ‘lifetime value’ of visitors from Britain a big challenge for Irish tourism

Sterling under pressure: some 44 per cent of visitors to the island of Ireland are from Britain, with these visitors generating 25 per cent of overseas tourism revenue. Photograph: iStock.

Sterling under pressure: some 44 per cent of visitors to the island of Ireland are from Britain, with these visitors generating 25 per cent of overseas tourism revenue. Photograph: iStock.

 

A certain amount of stoicism is required for Irish tourist authorities tasked with maximising the number of visitors to the island from Britain. So much depends on events wholly outside their control, namely the fluctuations in the value of the pound versus the euro that can swiftly render the Republic an unattractive break option for sterling users.

The currency markets rollercoaster since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 means Britain remains the most challenging market for Irish tourism. While total tourist numbers to the Republic rose 5.1 per cent in the January-April period, visitors from Britain were up a more modest 2.4 per cent, and Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons has warned that the ongoing flux will linger into the summer season.

Nevertheless, the agency would like to end the year with a positive British number, and yesterday it launched a market review in conjunction with Tourism Northern Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and industry partners.

Repeat visits

One key finding is that repeat holidaymakers from Britain tend to be more adventurous, spending more time and money while they’re here than first-timers and venturing beyond Dublin and Belfast into the regions. This reaffirms the importance of nurturing the “lifetime value” of relationships with British visitors and ensuring they have the best possible array of travel routes to come in the first place.

The Americans may spend more when they do land here, but holidaymakers from Britain who can get to Ireland easily and cheaply, go to places that other tourists don’t and often do so at quiet times of the year are the bread-and-butter of Irish tourism. If a new strategy can deliver its target of growing British market revenues 25 per cent to €705 million by 2022, then they could yet be the jam.

Alas, the direction of travel in Westminster threatens to scupper the industry’s best efforts.

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