Top-line data from the latest Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer, a survey of more than 500 tourism businesses around the country, shows that overall industry confidence remains upbeat as 2017 draws to a close but points to growing challenges in Dublin and the border counties related to Brexit.
Overall, industry sentiment is positive but has slightly dipped compared to the same time last year:
Sentiment in the industry is less positive than in recent post-crisis years; however, it is still healthy. The industry started 2017 with much uncertainty over Brexit and sterling exchange rates but has been bolstered by more American and German visitors.
Factors underpinning current sentiment include:
* The paid serviced accommodation (PSA) sector has enjoyed a strong year, with two in three (67%) businesses receiving more visitors than the same period last year;
* Hotels are performing particularly well, with 69% welcoming more visitors than in 2016 - the strength of the North American market has been very important for making up the shortfall in visitors from Britain;
* Guesthouses are also doing well in 2017 with about three in five (59%) enjoying more visitors in 2017 than last year – much of this success is due to the strength of the German market with 71% of guesthouses welcoming more German visitors this year;
* B&Bs are ending the year strongly with about half (49%) receiving more visitors this year and, like guesthouses, the German market is behind this good performance with over half (54%) of B&Bs receiving more German visitors this year;
* About two in five (39%) self-catering operators are busier this year than last year with repeat visitors a key reason for continued success – 63% of operators state this is also a likely positive factor for the year ahead, the highest proportion of any sector;
* Half (50%) of restaurants have been busier serving tourist customers this year thanks to the North American market with the majority (59%) of restaurants serving more American customers this year while, by comparison, no restaurants have enjoyed an increase in British customers and most (72%) have had a decrease from this market.
Commenting on the trends in today’s study, Fáilte Ireland Director of Business Development Paul Keeley emphasised:
“There is no denying that 2017 was another good year for tourism businesses but for the first time in a few years we certainly hit some speedbumps. If we are to enjoy continued growth, we need to target those markets with most potential and ensure that activity is spread regionally and across a longer tourism season. Otherwise, if future growth is simply concentrated in traditional hotspots and in the high season, we will be faced with the downsides of success – capacity constraints, congestion and a poorer visitor experience. That is why greater seasonality and regionality will be at the core of everything Fáilte Ireland does in 2018.”
Nearly two thirds (63%) of accommodation businesses in northern counties say they have been affected by the Sterling/Euro exchange rate this year. This compares to a lower but not insignificant proportion (46%) of businesses in other areas. This is reflected in Northern Ireland visitor volumes this year with over half (53%) of northern businesses down on NI visitors in 2017.
The current challenges are not confined to northern counties. Many (61%) Dublin accommodation businesses are down on British visitors in 2017 - compared to 46% of accommodation businesses experiencing the same drop in the rest of the country. The Sterling exchange rate plays a part in this drop but, in spite of the dip in Dublin’s British visitor numbers, the capital still outperforms the rest of the country in terms of visitors from all markets with 69% of accommodation businesses in the city up compared to last year.
Mr Keeley added:
“Brexit, and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding it, have injected a note of hesitancy in tourism’s recent growth. The focus for tourism businesses facing into 2018 must be twofold: remain competitive and provide value for money; and minimise your risk by diversifying your market mix.
“While we will still continue to fight for British business, it is important that those tourism enterprises overexposed to British and Northern Irish trade now pivot to other more buoyant markets. Fáilte Ireland, through its ‘Get Brexit Ready’ programme, has been working with hundreds of businesses to do just that and will continue to do so in 2018.”
The Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer is a survey of tourism businesses providing insight into performance for the year to date and prospects for the following year. Over 500 responses – through an online survey with tourism businesses or top-up telephone interviews – are collated and qualitative interviews with senior industry executives are also conducted to capture sentiment and views from across the tourism sector.