The State's tourism agencies need to focus more of their marketing efforts on mainland Europe than on Britain, according to a leading academic and board member of Fáilte Ireland.
Prof Jim Deegan of the University of Limerick's national centre for tourism policy studies, will tell a conference on Wednesday that visitor numbers and revenues figures show European visitors are accounting for a growing share of the Irish market.
“The European market has performed very well,” he says. However, he points out that it gets far less attention from tourism marketing agencies than Britain and the US.
Figures that Prof Deegan will discuss at the annual tourism policy workshop in Dromoland Castle on Wednesday show the number of British tourists visiting here grew from one million in 1970 to 3.34 million in 2015.
However, their market share has fallen to 42 per cent from 73 per cent. They accounted for 24 per cent of the €4.27 billion spent here by holidaymakers last year.
Over the same timeframe, European visitors numbers grew to 36 per cent of the market last year from just 7 per cent in 1970. They also accounted for 36 per cent of spending in 2015.
“Irrespective of any Brexit, we should be devoting proportionately more resources to mainland Europe than to Britain,” Prof Deegan argues.
“But, given what is going to happen with Brexit and what we can see happening to the exchange rate, we are not going to have the same problems with the European market.”
“I am not saying that we should be turning our back on Britain, but we should be turning our faces more towards the European market.”
Prof Deegan will also argue that the Republic needs more ambitious tourism goals as it is close to achieving the €5 billion revenue target set for 2025 nine years ahead of schedule.
Other speakers at the conference include economist Dan O'Brien, recently appointed Shannon Airport chief executive, Matthew Thomas, Cranfield University aviation analyst, Dr John O'Connell and Ryanair's Kenny Jacobs.