Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin has warned the hospitality sector not to take a bounce in overseas visitor numbers this year for granted and said it will have to offer “extreme value for money” despite spiralling inflation or risk damaging the sector in the long term.
The Green Party deputy leader also stressed that a better-than-anticipated tourism season in 2022 did not mean things would be as positive next year.
Ms Martin was speaking at the Dublin Castle launch of the Púca Festival which will take place between Trim and Athboy in Co Meath at the end of next month.
Developed by Fáilte Ireland, in partnership with Meath County Council, with the aim of placing Ireland “internationally as the home of Halloween”, the Púca Festival – which was first held in 2019 – seeks to encourage more international visitors to visit Ireland during October and November while bringing domestic visitors from other parts of Ireland to the east.
Ms Martin stressed the importance of festivals in the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring and said the Púca festival was “an excellent opportunity to promote Ireland as the place where it all began”.
She expressed satisfaction at overseas tourist numbers this year but stressed that nothing was guaranteed for 2023 as the global cost-of-living crisis deepens.
Taken for granted
“In no way can  be taken as a benchmark for 2023 because you have to remember, a lot of the tourism business that came in was due to deferrals and pent-up demand,” she told The Irish Times.
“So that can’t be taken for granted. And tourism, like any other sector or household across the country is facing cost inflation and energy cost hikes so our focus as a government [is] to ensure a sustainable recovery for tourism.”
She said unjustifiable price increases in the sector risked damaging tourism’s long-term prospects and added that operators “need to ensure that the tourists who arrive gets value for money so they need to justify those costs [and make] sure there’s extreme value for money for the tourists [so] they return again.”
She declined to be drawn on whether the temporary 9 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality sector would be retained after the budget but said she would seek to have “every type of support that can be given to tourism to make an impact as soon as possible”.
She pointed to the financial supports put in place at the height of the pandemic and “we didn’t put all those supports in place to allow tourism and hospitality to go out of business now”.
Orla Carroll of Fáilte Ireland said festivals such as Púca were “crucial to the tourism sector, motivating over 200,000 overseas visitors to come to Ireland and contributing €108 million to the economy every year”.
And she said the Púca Festival would seek to “position Ireland internationally as the home of Halloween and will build on existing work already taking place in Ireland’s Ancient East to tell the region’s ancient story”.