UK tourism drops despite Ireland hotels' strong performance

Kilkenny River Court Hotel, Ireland

According to the Irish Hotels Federation’s latest quarterly report, Irish hotel and guesthouse owners, especially those based in Kilkenny, have reported a sharp rise in business levels during the first half of 2017. However, the hotel market is feeling the negative effects of the Brexit as numbers drop in the UK, Kilkenny People reported. 

Good News...

CSO’s latest data showed the number of overseas visitors rose over three percent by the end of May. The domestic market has also increased with seven out of ten hotel groups saying business levels have risen, in comparison to this time last year. Overall, three quarters of hotel companies have reported increased levels in business year-over-year. 

Domestic tourism’s strong performance is expected to continue into the busy summer. More than two thirds of hotel chains (68 percent) say bookings have increased. Meanwhile, six out of ten (59 percent) stated the number of advance bookings for “staycations” for the remainder of 2017 have also risen. 

...and Not So Good

Aidan Quirke, chair of the south-east brand of the Irish Hotels Federation, warned that Brexit has already made a major impact on tourism performance. “Visitor numbers are up, which is good news, and the growth in domestic tourism is particularly encouraging as it extends beyond the traditional tourism hot spots, and its impact on local economies can be felt more widely.

“However, the latest CSO figures show a continued fall in UK visitors, our biggest market nationally, which illustrates the fragility of the tourism recovery in Kilkenny,” Quirke told Kilkenny People. 

Many of these consequences, he noted, are mostly out of the industry’s control. As such, it is important for hoteliers and the overall industry to reduce the risks and potential damage that can be controlled. “It is achievable, but it requires specific actions,” Quirke said. “Ireland’s competitive tourism offering will certainly help, and this is underpinned by important measures such as the zero rate travel tax and the 9-percent tourism VAT rate, which brings us into line with other countries in Europe.

“We must also continue to invest in product development and marketing. Enormous strides have already been made in the development of our products and brands, including Ireland’s Ancient East, for example. However, the recovery has not been felt to the same extent throughout the county,” Quirke said. 

According to Quirke, the UK’s market provides the most visitors across Ireland and seasonally. A full 91 percent of the nation’s hotel companies believe more regional marketing is needed. Irish tourism has proven to be “an excellent investment,” with every euro used for destination marketing by the state. As a result, travelers to the country have spent €34 there. 

The rest of the year is expected to have a positive outlook overall. Over half of hotel groups (52 percent) have reported increased advanced bookings from the U.S., 35 percent from Germany and 27 percent from France.