Tourism Recovery by 2026

The CEO of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, Eoghan O'Mara Walsh, has said it will be 2026 before the Irish tourism sector returns to pre-pandemic levels.

He said there are a number of challenges facing the sector for the next number of years and that while they have "made great strides in that direction" this year, there is still "a long road ahead". Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said the tourism report for 2022 was "much better than anticipated".

Around seven million international tourists came to Ireland this year, according to research from ITIC. That equates to a 73% recovery compared to the pre-pandemic peak of 2019.

Of the seven million international tourists in 2022,  ITIC estimates that 2.6 million came from mainland Europe with 2.4 million coming from Britain and 1.5 million arriving from North America. Just less than half a million people came from long haul markets.

Mr O’Mara Walsh said tourism is "very vulnerable to external factors" and that next year is going to be no different. He said there are a number of factors including the energy crisis and hyperinflation, "some of them beyond our control, some within our control".

ITIC estimates that 28% of all tourism beds in regional Ireland are currently contracted to Government for humanitarian reasons, which could potentially cost the sector €1 billion in lost earnings next year.

Mr O’Mara Walsh said this could lead to a shortage of beds in 2023, which could have knock-on impacts in towns and villages.

"From a humanitarian perspective this is perfectly understandable, however if that situation is still the case in March, April, May as we get into the tourism season next year, we are going to have a problem,"  he said.