Fáilte Ireland dramatically drops estimate of number of occupied beds after review

Pressure on tourism sector not as acute as previously thought after occupancy rate drops from 28% to 13%

Fáilte Ireland has dramatically revised downwards the level of beds occupied by refugees and asylum seekers in hotels and other accommodation providers registered with the tourism body.

The move follows an examination by Fáilte Ireland of data put together by the Department of Integration in April, which estimated that 28 per cent of all beds registered with the tourism body was contracted to the State.

The impact of housing refugees and applicants for international protection on tourism has been a matter of concern for industry groups, with the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation warning last year that the State’s relatively high reliance on tourism beds was damaging its business.

However, a presentation shared with the tourism industry this week and drawn up by Fáilte Ireland outlines that “we now know this assessment overstated the percentage of FI-registered tourism bed stock under contract”.


The new estimate is that 13 per cent of all tourism bed stock in premises that are registered with Fáilte Ireland is contracted out to the State. The overestimate is understood to have been caused by modelling which assumed that all accommodation stock was registered to Fáilte Ireland.

This meant it included anything that was remotely related to the tourism sector and former B&Bs, hotels and converted lodges or even convents that had been converted to hosting refugees.

The presentation also revised how Fáilte Ireland estimates the impact on the tourism sector economically. Previously, this had been measured at about €1.1 billion, with businesses outside the accommodation sector seeing pressure on their income as regular tourism business was displaced through a lack of beds. However, the updated assessment from Fáilte Ireland says this is now estimated as a range, between €700 million and €1.1 billion.

The new findings do not revise the absolute numbers of people accommodated in Ireland, with 76,143 beds under contract, and 29,555 in Fáilte Ireland properties. However, they will change considerations of how acute the pressure on the wider tourism sector is arising from the crisis in refugee accommodation. According to the presentation, the underestimate “highlights the need for and importance of a fully inclusive register of all tourist accommodation stock”.

The presentation outlines how there are now five counties with more than 20 per cent of available capacity out of use for tourism – Offaly, Mayo, Leitrim, Meath and Clare. Clare tops the list at 33 per cent, followed by Meath at 28 per cent.

Fáilte Ireland estimates that of 46,588 beds that are in use in unregistered properties, up to 24,000 are in establishments which could be tourism related but are not obliged to be registered with the tourism body.

The economic impact changes depending on how many beds are impacted. At the lower end, if only registered Fáilte Ireland stock which has been given over for use by refugees has been lost to the sector, the overall hit to revenues is €700 million. If that is broadened out to include half the unregistered properties as also being lost to the sector – although it is not known for certain how many of these are genuinely in tourism businesses – the estimate is €1 billion.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times