Hoteliers are becoming increasingly concerned about the challenges facing he industry following a mixed summer season, according to the latest survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

The survey shows that 57% of hotels have seen a fall in overall business levels compared to this time last year, while 33% have reported an increase. Reponses were recorded during the month of September 2019.

Business levels from the UK remain very challenging for hotels, largely as a result of uncertainty around Brexit and the marked drop in the value of Sterling in recent years. Some 78% of hotels have seen a fall-off in business from Great Britain compared to last year, while 60% report a decrease in business from Northern Ireland.

Some 64% of hoteliers report that the weakness in the value of Sterling has had a negative impact on business levels while risks associated with Brexit have resulted in 73% re-examining investment plans and taking a more cautious approach for next year.

While tourism business from North America and the domestic market were stronger, results for these markets were mixed. Some 36% of hoteliers report an increase in business from North America while 45% report an increase in business from Irish domestic tourism.

Commenting on the results, IHF President Michael Lennon said: “Irish tourism has been one of the great success stories of the economy in recent years, supporting 270,000 jobs and promoting balanced regional growth across the country. However, we are now at a cross-roads and facing a number of pressing challenges including serious risks associated with Brexit, increasingly high costs of doing business in Ireland and ongoing difficulties in attracting visitors to the regions and extending the short tourism season.”

“Brexit is particularly challenging in light of our heavy reliance on visitors from the UK, which is even more pronounced for regional tourism businesses. A ‘no-deal’ outcome would cause enormous difficulties for the hotel sector, creating the prospect of a drop of over 10% in tourism revenues from UK visitors and a decline in Irish consumer sentiment, which would have a knock-on effect on domestic tourism activity.”

Mr Lennon acknowledged the progress made in recent years in new product development and market diversification, including campaigns targeting higher spending visitors. He said that initiatives such as The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands offered significant potential for regional tourism growth.

“They can play a vital role in lengthening the tourism season in parts of the country that currently lag behind. This is of critical importance to local economies where tourism is the primary contributor. These initiatives must be more adequately resourced. This requires an increase in Government investment in tourism marketing and development,” he added.

The IHF continues to press the Government to introduce a Tourism Satellite Account within the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to provide a full analysis of the economic activity in the tourism industry and how much it contributes to each county throughout the country.

“It will also provide independent verification to assist those who rely on the National Accounts, where tourism is not identified, to inform their deliberations on taxation and economic policy,” Mr Lennon said.

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