Tourism feels the pinch
Fáilte Ireland’s promotional efforts have been concentrated on North America and Europe
Cliffs of Moher: not as exposed to the British market as the eastern seaboard
When Fáilte Ireland officials warn the hospitality sector of the need to give tourists value for money, it is a fair bet that prices have already become uncompetitive. The high cost of hotel rooms in Dublin is a particular concern because, as the gateway to the rest of the country, it sets a trend. More than 5,000 bedrooms are under construction in order to meet demand in the city, but accommodation pressure is likely to persist for at least two years.
British tourists are particularly price-sensitive and there are indications that a quarter-of-a-million fewer of them may come here this year
It has taken a decade for the tourism and leisure sector to recover from mistakes made during the Celtic Tiger years. Eight million visitors came here in 2007, only to be go home disgruntled, complaining of high prices and bad value. When recession hit, the roof fell in. Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary declared Irish tourism to be “in the toilet” in 2011. It had lost 50 per cent of its British market and 30 per cent of its Continental visitors. Many hotels and restaurants had closed or were in receivership. It took Government assistance, a revamped business model, hard work and value for money to build a recovery. It was a significant achievement. Last year, nine-and-a-half million visitors – a record – spent €5.5 billion here and helped to sustain an additional 30,000 jobs.
Offering tourists value for money and enjoyable experiences are the bones of a successful industry. Take visitors for granted at your peril. Britain is our largest market and the fall in the value of the pound following the Brexit referendum is posing serious difficulties in that market. British tourists are particularly price-sensitive and there are indications that a quarter-of-a-million fewer of them may come here this year. To counteract that development, Fáilte Ireland’s promotional efforts have been concentrated on the North American and European markets. As a result, European visitor numbers have grown by six per cent during the first six months of this year and by 22 per cent from the US and Canada. Advertising can only do so much, however. Unless visitors are satisfied with the prices being charged, the industry could face another downturn.