Brexit un­cer­tainty re­mains a threat

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

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.

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