Brexit uncertainty remains a threat
TOURISM figures reached record levels last year, but early indications for 2019 from hotels and guesthouses in Wicklow are that it will be challenging for the industry to maintain the growth of recent years.
According to the latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), the domestic market is holding and US business levels are continuing to rise. However, the continental Europe market shows signs of softening while business levels from the UK market are still falling.
Brian McNamara, Chair of the Wicklow branch of the IHF, feels that the heightened risk of a disorderly Brexit is a serious concern for the tourism industry. Other major concerns highlighted include reduced competitiveness due to increases in the cost of doing business, insurance cost increases and the hike in tourism VAT.
‘With the prospect of a prolonged and disruptive Brexit looming, the Government must not disregard the importance of tourism,’ said Mr McNamara. ‘The industry plays a vital role as an engine of growth and regional economic balance, supporting over 266,000 jobs throughout the country, 70 per cent of which are outside Dublin. Here in Wicklow it supports 13,900 jobs and contributes some €174m to the local economy annually.
‘Yet, we continue to have a two-tiered tourism industry, which Government policy is failing to address. There are parts of the industry that are performing well though the rate of growth appears to be slowing. However, not every tourism business or part of the country is enjoying the same level of success. There are many areas where tourism remains very seasonal and hospitality businesses struggle to break even during off-peak periods. These businesses can ill afford to take another economic hit. The Government must take decisive action to mitigate the impact of Brexit and address the other serious challenges we face with the high cost of doing business in Ireland.’
According to the IHF survey, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of hoteliers say domestic business levels are holding with some reporting increases compared to this time last year. This market is of particular importance to regional tourism, where the recovery has been slower. Further afield, the US market continues to perform strongly with almost four in ten (38 per cent) of hoteliers reporting increases in business.
However, there are signs of a slowdown in growth from continental Europe. Closer to home, 62 per cent have seen a drop in business levels from Northern Ireland while almost three quarters of hoteliers (73 per cent) report a fall-off from Great Britain.
‘Tourism is an exceptionally competitive activity. We compete daily for business at both a domestic and international level and every tourism Euro spent by overseas and domestic tourists in Ireland is hard won. Maintaining our competitiveness is absolutely vital to sustaining the growth of the industry, With tourism heading into more difficult times, it is essential that policy makers have a complete and accurate picture of the industry,’ added Mr McNamara.