The State’s tourism authorities fear an increase in so-called “flight shaming” could threaten Ireland’s position as a European travel hotspot.
Niall Gibbons, the chief executive of Tourism Ireland, which markets the whole island abroad, said the organisation has picked up "noise" in mainland Europe around the issue.
He said the organisation’s “ear to the ground” has detected momentum behind flight-shaming, where people are criticised for travelling by air for environmental reasons. He said proposed green taxes on air travel are another threat.
He said it would be “concerning” for Ireland if any attempts to burden air travel carried into a major Irish tourism source market, such as Germany. About 90 per cent of all inbound tourists to Ireland arrive by air.
“I’d be concerned about the risk [of flight shaming and aviation taxes] for Ireland,” he said at a presentation on Tuesday morning on Irish tourism targets for 2020. “We are on the periphery [of Europe]. Germany has 80 million outbound tourists. But they can travel by car. 90 per cent of visitors arrive here by air.”
He said he would be concerned for Ireland if the “noise” around flight-shaming and air taxes “continues to grow legs and momentum”.
“We have a reputation as a clean, green island. We want to make sure we keep that,” said Mr Gibbons.
At the presentation, Mr Gibbons said 2019 had been a “mixed bag” for Irish tourism, with slight declines in the value of inbound tourism from the UK and Europe, and a slight increase from north America.
Leaving aside Northern Ireland, for which the organisation also has responsibility, and focusing on the republic, Tourism Ireland is targeting a 3 per cent increase of foreign tourism revenues to €5.26 billion. It hopes for a 1 per cent increase in visitor numbers to 9.73 million.
Ireland faces challenges, however, such as a forecasted 4 per cent decline in inbound aviation capacity due to the withdrawal of some services by airlines such as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Hainan.
Initiatives planned for next year include a relaunch of the Ireland.com website in the third quarter of 2020, and a “Green Tuesday” marketing campaign close to St Patrick’s Day in March.