Uncertainty Follows Joyful NYF

As Fáilte Ireland’s biggest ever New Year’s Festival Dublin drew to a close, the tourism industry looked forward to a year of uncertainty.

This year, NYF Dublin ran over four days for the first time, with over 40 music and entertainment events taking place across three Dublin venues. The festival is expected to have driven an estimated €8 million in tourism revenue and additional economic activity for the city.

As the festival wound down however, hospitality sector employers faced increases to the minimum wage, changes to sick leave entitlements and a new pension auto-enrolment scheme in 2024.

Unions have welcomed the enhanced employee benefits, but many businesses are warning that they will struggle to cope with the increased costs.

Overall, 2023 was a good year for the industry. Almost 17.8m people arrived at Irish air and sea ports between January and October, an increase on the numbers seen in the same, pre-pandemic period of 2019. North America performed well this year, as improved connectivity catered to pent-up demand from the US. However other tourism sources were less buoyant. The recovery of visitor numbers from the UK and Germany stuttered, due to the economic stagnation in both countries, and poor summer weather did not help.

Value for money was also an issue, although Europeans were also experiencing inflation at home. Hotel room rates were significantly ahead of overall inflation however, largely due to demand exceeding supply as up to 20% of rooms were switched to accommodating refugees. Remaining competitive on price was such a concern that Fáilte Ireland issued a warning early in the year about the impact of room rate inflation on the tourism sector. Fáilte Ireland also estimated that the non-accommodation tourism sector would lose up to €1.1 billion in revenue due to the lack of beds in the country.

Recruitment and retention of staff remained an issue. Micheline Corr, Director of The Firm, told The Irish Times in December:

“Visitor numbers are increasing steadily, and the domestic market has been buoyant thanks to near full employment in the economy. Demand for talent is high in a very competitive marketplace, and employers need to be innovative when they seek to attract the talent that they need to grow their businesses. Our experience over the past year is that many employers are responding to the challenges of the marketplace by investing in training and career progression, embracing the opportunities of online training and by offering life-friendly rosters where possible.”