Tourism industry calls for greater spending to boost visitor numbers

Group wants State to triple capital funds to drive up inwards tourism 50% by 2025

Cyclists on the Waterford Greenway: Itic wants the Government to allocate more capital to tourism projects.

Cyclists on the Waterford Greenway: Itic wants the Government to allocate more capital to tourism projects.

 

The Republic’s tourism industry is calling for a major programme of State investment to boost overseas visitor numbers by more than 50 per cent to 13.5 million over the next eight years.

The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (Itic), the sector’s lobbying umbrella group, says the Government’s existing strategy to 2025, which envisages a boost in visitor numbers to just 10 million, is “not ambitious enough”.

At a briefing in Dublin on Thursday, Itic said it plans to launch in March its own strategy proposal for the industry to 2025, which envisages a major increase in earnings from overseas visitors, from this year’s €4.9 billion to €7.6 billion.

It will suggest that visitor numbers could rise significantly from their current level of 8.9 million annually, while the exchequer’s tax take from tourism could increase from €1.13 billion to €1.75 billion. This could deliver an extra 50,000 jobs, Itic says.

The lobby group suggests that accelerated growth in tourism – which is already at record levels after a strong 2017 – could be achieved by boosting advertising spend in foreign countries, investing in new tourism attractions, and diversifying into new markets so Ireland is not over-reliant on a US surge continuing.

To meet ramped-up targets, Itic wants the State to effectively triple the exchequer’s annual capital investment in tourism attractions to €60 million. It also wants an increase of 65 per cent in current spending, which includes the marketing budgets of State tourism agencies, to €180 million.

Itic said the Government’s attitude to tourism will be reflected in the levels of funding allocated to tourism under the State’s capital plan, details of which are expected to be revealed early in the new year.

‘New attractions’

“We have made a significant play for new funding in the capital plan,” said Maurice Pratt, the chairman of Itic. “We need to build new attractions and we also don’t want to be over-reliant on any market.”

He said the industry would be “extremely disappointed” if there was not a “significant increase” in State capital spending on tourism.

Mr Pratt said he believes Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe – both of whom were previously ministers for tourism – “get” the industry.

“We’ve talked to them and we believe they do get it. The details of the capital plan will show if they support the ambitions we have for the industry.”

Mr Pratt also said British visitor numbers, which comprise 40 per cent of the total to the Republic, fell this year by 6 per cent and the State must counter this by paying for an intensified marketing campaign in the UK in 2018.

At its briefing to discuss highlights of 2017, Itic said it was a record year with visitor numbers of 8.9 million. A massive surge of 16 per cent in US visitor numbers outweighed a 6 per cent Brexit-inspired decline in UK numbers.

Itic estimates that visitor numbers will grow next year by 5 per cent in volume terms, with spend up 7 per cent. Overall, it said the tourism industry was worth €8.7 billion to the economy.