Local hoteliers warn against complacency

Growth, but trepidation over impact of Brexit

Offaly Express Reporter

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Local hoteliers warn against complacency

Hoteliers and guest house owners are reporting growth in business compared to last year according to the latest quarterly barometer from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

However, the survey also shows that the fall in the value of sterling is affecting the industry with one in three hoteliers (36%) saying that it has negatively impacted their business.

This comes as the latest figures from the CSO show that while visitors from Great Britain are up 9% year on year, the rate of growth has slowed.

The UK market accounts for approximately 40% of overseas visitors, making it Ireland’s largest source of inbound tourists, which highlights the potential exposure of the Midlands tourism industry.

Ronan Byrne, chair of the Midlands Branch of the IHF said: “Overseas visitor numbers are up by 12% overall, and importantly for the Midlands, domestic tourism is also still on the increase as consumer sentiment at home continues to improve. However, the impact of the fall in sterling shows that there is no room for complacency.”

Mr. Byrne added: “We are doing our best to maintain competitiveness through constant monitoring of costs so that we continue to deliver good value to all visitors and especially visitors from at home and the UK.

“The pro-tourism measures of the Government are vital too and the latest barometer shows just how critical the Government’s recent decision to retain the 9% VAT rate was to the industry that is so price-sensitive and vulnerable to external economic shocks.”

While acknowledging that significant work has already been undertaken in this area

Mr Byrne said that further targeted investment is required to sustain the recovery in tourism, a view shared by more than four in ten (43%) hoteliers who believe that more needs to be done in the development of regional tourism products.

“Time and time again, Irish tourism has shown itself to be an excellent investment with every euro spent in destination marketing by the state resulting in €34 being spent by visitors in the country.  Further investment is needed now, for example, to facilitate the development of area specific initiatives such as Ireland’s Ancient East.

“We also need to see an increase in marketing both at home and abroad to ensure our product offering remains fresh and compelling both to attract new visitors and encourage repeat visits,” he said.

Mr Byrne said that hoteliers recognised that they had a valuable contribution to make in this area also.

The latest barometer reveals that two thirds of hoteliers plan to increase their own marketing spend over the next 12 months while nine out of ten hoteliers indicated that they intend to invest in refurbishment and increased capital expenditure within the next year.

Forty six percent (46%) of hoteliers are also anticipating increases in their staff numbers over the coming year.
Some 50,000 new jobs have been created in tourism since 2011 and the industry is on track to create a further 40,000 jobs nationally by 2021.

Mr Byrne said that the industry needs to recruit over 6,000 entry-level employees each year across all areas of its operations.
“This represents a wealth of employment opportunities for young people in the Midlands and around the country.

“The IHF together with the Irish Hospitality Institute (IHI) and in partnership with Fáilte Ireland recently launched a national tourism careers programme to help young people to explore the full range of exciting career paths and options available throughout the country.”

The programme includes a free digital and print magazine on tourism career options and is being supported by a student work experience programme, school talks by industry professionals and a series of regional careers events.

Full details are available at www.getalifeintourism.ie