Tourism growth presents challenge to State, conference told

Expert says tourism research must be made a priority to capitalise on growth in visitors

Tourists carry their suitcases and luggage through Dublin city centre. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Tourists carry their suitcases and luggage through Dublin city centre. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Tourism must be recognised as a priority area for research to ensure that the industry can cope with the challenges it faces, a conference heard at the weekend.

Prof Jim Deegan, director the National Centre for Tourism Policy Studies at the University of Limerick, told the Annual Tourism Policy Workshop that visitor numbers and spending were already close to targets set for 2025.

He pointed out that the State is benefiting from global growth in tourism that is expected to produce an extra 43 million holiday-makers across the world every year to 2030.

“If that happens we are going to face a really big challenge in how to move those people around and give them a good experience,” he said.

Prof Deegan argued that the State needed to research how to use existing smart technology to help the industry manage this challenge.

He pointed out that tourism is not included in the 14 key research areas identified by government that Prof Deegan noted were to form the basis of the State’s future prosperity. “That needs to change,” he said.

Luring tourists

The academic predicted that by the end of this year, the State is likely to have lured more than nine million tourists, who will have spent €4.9 billion. Government targets are to attract 10 million holiday-makers a year by 2025 and for spending to be €5 billion.

“Demand is not our problem,” he said. “Tourism is growing and it’s going to keep growing.”

As a result, Prof Deegan said, the industry needed to focus on the supply side, that is infrastructure, attractions and accommodation.

Prof Alan Ahearne of the Whitaker Institute warned that tourism would face a challenge as the State neared full employment.

He said that there needed to be an emphasis on productivity and labour-saving technology.