A year of potential growth for tourism

ALL the local players in tourism in the Lakelands area – individual businesses, tourism agencies, representative groups and local communities – will need to work closely together to ensure that tourism in the Lakelands area can recover in 2011. This “Team tourism” approach was the central message of Fáilte Ireland’s Annual Tourism Industry Briefing held today in the Glasson Country House Hotel & Golf Club in Glasson, Westmeath.

ALL the local players in tourism in the Lakelands area – individual businesses, tourism agencies, representative groups and local communities – will need to work closely together to ensure that tourism in the Lakelands area can recover in 2011. This “Team tourism” approach was the central message of Fáilte Ireland’s Annual Tourism Industry Briefing held today in the Glasson Country House Hotel & Golf Club in Glasson, Westmeath.

During a series of presentations and a panel discussion, Fáilte Ireland pointed out that the current indications are that 2011 would be the year for tourism in the Lakelands to improve with prospects hinging more than ever on the performance of our overseas markets as the home market has effectively peaked. Reinforcing that belief, citing Fáilte Ireland’s own research, CEO Shaun Quinn pointed out that most tourism enterprises are relatively optimistic regarding their business prospects for 2011, with approximately three in five expecting to maintain or grow their business levels in 2011.

Mr Quinn emphasised that everyone in tourism in the Lakelands area will need to work closer together to identify all opportunities for growth and maximise their potential.

“2011 will once again be a tough year for all of us in the tourism industry but there are some positive signs in some of our key markets, particularly Europe and the US, and business sentiment about future prospects has improved slightly. We have a good quality product, we have better infrastructure and we are better value than before. We know where our target markets are and what needs to be done – particularly the need to grow market share in the UK. Tourism has a significant role to play in this county’s economic recovery and it is imperative that as we develop the sector in 2011 that we leave no stone unturned nor potential untapped.

“The local hotel, the B&B owner, the nearby self-catering operator, the activity provider up the road, the local Fáilte Ireland representative, all the tourism agencies, other local state bodies and community groups all have a vested interest in ensuring that tourism grows in the Lakelands area. Fáilte Ireland is committed to working with all the key players in the region to ensure this happens.”

By way of example, Mr Quinn pointed out that further investment in the Lakelands tourism sector has continued into 2011 with the recent announcement of funding of €2.3 million for the upgrading of the interpretation in Athlone Castle under Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Capital Infrastructure Programme.

Mr Quinn acknowledged the particular obstacles facing businesses in the region. He said-

“Tourism businesses walked the tightrope in 2010 – paring back prices and offering good value while ensuring their businesses remained viable. Many businesses, including those in the Lakelands area, are now expressing concern over access to working capital for the year ahead. One in five claims that they have no access to working capital, a further three in five say that they have very limited access or that working capital is available but more limited than they would like. Only one in five claims to have adequate access to working capital.”

“In an industry which is seasonal, the concerns regarding access to credit are quite serious. Fáilte Ireland is working closely with Lakelands tourism businesses to ensure that they are well prepared in their dealings with their banks and we are helping and supporting viable tourism businesses to access the credit they need.”