Predictions that foreign earnings from overseas visitors are likely to hit €5 billion this year may not reflect what tourists are actually spending in the Republic, according to a board member of the State agency that made the forecast.
Fáilte Ireland’s review of 2014 states that more than 7.3 million overseas visitors came here this year, 9 per cent more than in 2013. “In terms of spending by international tourists, foreign earnings are expected to be up 12 per cent to €5 billion,” it says.
However, Prof Jim Deegan, director of the National Centre for Tourism Policy Studies at the University of Limerick and a member of Fáilte Ireland's board, said "foreign earnings" includes money spent by business travellers, people coming from the North to the Republic, and revenues collected by airlines and shipping companies.
Prof Deegan predicted that actual tourism spending in the Republic is likely to be below this figure. Last year, the number was €3.3 billion, while in 2007, before the industry went into a sustained decline in 2008, it was €3.9 billion.
Last week, the
Central Statistics Office
published data showing that overseas holiday makers spent €2.8 billion in the Republic in the first nine months of this year, €241 million more than during the same period in 2013.
Prof Deegan also pointed out that in 2003, the Tourism Review Group, set €6 billion as the 2012 revenue target for the industry. “We have become a lot less optimistic about it since then,” he said.
Despite this, he described the 2014 figures as buoyant and urged the Government to set more ambitious earnings targets for the industry than the €5 billion that it earmarked for 2025 in a draft policy document published in July.
He argued that if the final figure for this year is €4 billion, then an increase of €1 billion over 11 years would not represent massive growth for the industry. “The Government target for 2025 is less than for 2002 to 2012,” he said. “We should really be more aggressive in how we want tourism to perform.” He argued that policy makers do not see the industry as strategically important.
He also suggested that the Republic is taking a smaller share of the global tourism market, which is continuing to grow. “Our market share of European tourists has been in decline since 2007,” he said.
Fáilte Ireland is predicting a 6 per cent increase in the number of overseas tourists in 2015. Chairman, Michael Cawley, said that if the sector maintained competitiveness and continued to invest in infrastructure, it would generate record revenues and create thousands more jobs.