Overseas visitors down but home market strong


VISITING IRELAND:THE Irish tourism industry has reported a mixed summer season with the absence of foreign visitors being compensated for by a strong domestic market. Next week, Dublin Tourism will launch what it calls a “world-first innovation” to boost visitor numbers, with a digital strategy using mobile technology.

The president of the Irish Hotels Federation Paul Gallagher described the summer as “patchy”. He said foreign visitors were “thin on the ground”, a perception which would appear to be confirmed by recent CSO statistics but the home market was “buoyant”.

Mr Gallagher said the absence of foreign visitors was affecting Dublin hotels worst. He said that there was outstanding value in Irish hotels but that needed to be communicated better to foreign visitors, especially in the UK, which accounts for 60 per cent of overseas trade.

Kelly’s hotel in Rosslare has reported a very good summer season. General manager Bill Kelly said they had 95 per cent occupancy for June, July and August helped by the best summer weather for many years.

Fellow Wexford hotelier Liam Griffin said their visitor numbers were up by 9 per cent but the yield was down because of the glut of hotel rooms and hotels trading below cost. He said hoteliers had filleted out every cost they could except Government costs which they could not control. He described a proposed five per cent increase in ESB prices as “outrageous”.

Helena Healy, chief executive of B&B Ireland described June as a “poor month” but July and August were “much improved”.

“We’ve had a lot of B&Bs saying they have had a very good year, as good if not better than last year, but there are a lot of BBs telling us that they had a worse year than last year.” She said B&Bs in traditional tourist hot spots such as Galway city, Cork city and Killarney did best.

Other B&Bs suffered from the absence of foreign visitors and low hotel rates, she added.

Some of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions have reported a moderately successful summer. Paul Carthy, manager of the Guinness Storehouse, Ireland’s most popular attraction, said they were pleased with the summer though numbers were down about 5 per cent but only 1.5 per cent in August.

He said the Storehouse had outperformed the general Dublin market where foreign visitors were down between 8 per cent and 10 per cent.

Dublin Zoo, the second most popular visitor attraction, said it was very pleased with the summer season which had a strong showing from domestic visitors.

The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, which was embroiled in controversy over its charges this summer, said visitors were down 10 per cent to the end of July, but that had to be seen in the context of a 20 per cent drop in overseas visitors.

Shannon Development, which runs Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, expects an 8 per cent drop in visitors this year. And Blarney Castle had 91,500 visitors in June and July, a small decline on last year.