National Council & Management Committee Meeting17/05/2017 - 10:00am to 4:00pm
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HOTELIERS CALL FOR DECISIVE ACTIONS NOW TO BE TOURISM READY FOR BREXIT
· €24m increase in funding for tourism marketing over next three years with €10m in 2017
· Visitors numbers from NI and GB markets falling
· 9 out of 10 hoteliers say Brexit a significant concern
· Seek a special arrangement for Northern Ireland to retain soft border
· Retain Common Travel Area
A clear EU mandate for a soft border with Northern Ireland and an additional €24m for international tourism marketing over the next three are critical for tourism to be “Brexit ready”, the President of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) stated today. Addressing over 500 delegates at the IHF annual conference in Kilkenny, Mr Dolan stated that continued growth is a priority for the sector but that without specific actions now, Ireland would do well to maintain current levels next year given the challenges Brexit poses. The Conference also heard that a recent industry survey shows that the vast majority of hoteliers and guesthouse owners (95 per cent)* concerned about the impact of Brexit on their business.
Over 40 per cent of overseas visitors are from the UK, making the country heavily reliant on this market. The IHF survey reveals some worrying signs that Britain’s decision to leave the EU is already affecting tourism here. Almost three in ten (29 per cent) hoteliers say that business levels from Britain are down compared to this time last year, while a quarter (25 per cent) are reporting a similar decrease from Northern Ireland. This fall looks set to worsen. Four in ten are seeing a drop in advance bookings from Britain while just over a quarter (27 per cent) say bookings from Northern Ireland for the remainder of the year are down compared to 2016.
Mr Dolan stated that Brexit is casting a large shadow over a strong performance by tourism in 2016 and is dampening hoteliers’ optimism for 2017. “There is a need for targeted assistance for regional tourism businesses vulnerable to Brexit especially for those regions which have high dependency on the UK market. A substantial increase in marketing support of €24 million over three years, with €10 million in 2017, is critical to stave off the impact of Brexit. This would bring the spend back in line with 2008 levels by 2020. We must reduce our over-reliance on the UK and safeguard future growth in tourism, particularly in the key European and North American markets. There are aspects of the economic consequences of Brexit which are largely outside our control so is imperative that we plan and mitigate the risks and potential damage where we do have some control over our destiny.”
“It is essential that we avoid a ‘hard border’ with Northern Ireland. The reality is that we could have an international border post-Brexit with serious consequences for Irish tourism. We must seek to limit any damage by persuading our European partners to agree to a special arrangement with Northern Ireland to achieve a soft border that is as seamless and frictionless as possible. To date we have heard a lot of welcome reassurances. We need more concrete commitments from the EU on the special status of Northern Ireland.
The IHF stresses that the border counties, which welcome over 57 per cent of all visitors coming from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, along with the East and Midlands are significantly exposed to Brexit. At 69 per cent, the number of UK visitors to the North-West is even more pronounced. This region, in particular, is very reliant on tourism from Northern Ireland with 46 per cent of tourists directly across the border. This poses an enormous risk both in terms of jobs and employment.
According to Mr Dolan any restriction on the free movement of people between the UK and Ireland would be a further major implication of Brexit. This would include the loss of the Common Travel Area exemption, which permits visitors from developing markets including Asia* travelling on UK visas to come to Ireland too.
“We must maintain our Common Travel Area and open airspace with the UK. We must also do everything possible to retain the British-Irish Visa scheme for short-stay visitors traveling to Britain and Ireland on a single visa. This has been instrumental in opening up new markets such as India and China where we have seen strong growth,” says Mr Dolan.
“Brexit poses a particular challenge given Ireland’s heavy reliance on holidaymakers and business travellers from the UK and Northern Ireland. The significant weakening in the value of Sterling is acting as a double whammy as it reduces the spending power of these visitors,” says Joe Dolan. “The international tourism industry in which Ireland operates is exceptionally competitive and Ireland fights hard for every visitor and tourism euro earned. Tourism demand is constantly evolving and, as conditions change, we must be ready to respond as an industry. This requires continuous investment in tourism marketing and product development to ensure that our tourism offering keeps pace with global competition.
The IHF states that every euro spent in destination marketing by the State results in a €34 visitor spend in the country however; substantial reductions in the funding allocation for tourism marketing and product development remain in place and tourism bodies continue to operate under very constrained budgets.
“We must do more in positioning of Ireland as a destination – especially our regional offering. We must strengthen our links between tourism and our natural assets such as agriculture, landscape, food and exploit our green credentials. It would not only provide new interesting experiences for our visitors but would give substantial opportunities for farmers, producers and artisans to develop their market produce and facilitate brands to connect with visitors. Examples could include the further development of food trails and tours, food festivals, farmer’s markets and cookery schools,” Mr Dolan concludes.
Ger McCarthy/ Siobhan Molloy Dublin office: 01 6798600
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NOTES TO EDITOR:
*Survey based on the responses of owners and general managers of hotel and guesthouse businesses across the country conducted during February 2017.
* Common Travel Area exemption countries
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Dependence on UK visitor market:
- Border counties, UK accounts for over 60% of overseas visitors
- Cork Airport, 60% of all arrivals are from UK
- Knock, 83% of arrivals from UK
About the IHF
Founded in 1937, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) is the national organisation of the hotel and guesthouse industry in Ireland. It represents just over 1,000 hotels and guesthouses nationwide, employing almost 60,000 people and is a key stakeholder in the Irish tourism sector.