As Fáilte Ireland looks to next year, the tourism agency plans to focus on sustaining the success of 2018 in the face of challenges on the horizon for the sector. At a major industry event in Croke Park on Monday November 12, a number of opportunities for the tourism sector were identified to over 300 key industry members, including increased air access from regions such as the US, Canada and Europe, growth in the Northern European tourist market, and increased state investment in industry and tourist attraction development, and sales and marketing.
Joining Fáilte Ireland at the event in Croke Park on November 12, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said, "I’m delighted to launch Fáilte Ireland’s plans for 2019...they are robust and forward-thinking, not only setting out initiatives to tackle challenges such as the uncertainty caused by Brexit, but also ensuring that we are on the front-foot in leveraging every opportunity that comes our way.
"In addition, the significant additional funding for tourism secured in Budget 2019 will play a key role in plans for the tourism sector next year, allowing Fáilte Ireland to continue to develop Ireland’s tourism offering and support the industry to both improve the visitor experience and diversify into new markets."
Building On Success
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin stated, "2018 has been a great year for tourism. Fáilte Ireland’s focus on regionality and seasonality has made major strides with some welcome new initiatives such as Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, a new regional experience brand for the Midlands, and new festivals such as May the Fourth Be With You in Kerry. On top of the wide range of supports and investment in the industry, the stellar growth we’ve seen in recent years is also testament to the hard work of a very robust industry. The plans launched today give us an opportunity to build on the success of recent years in a way which will ensure that tourism remains a vital indigenous economic sector in Ireland."
Speaking about Fáilte Ireland's plans, the agency's CEO, Paul Kelly, said, "2018 has been an exceptional year for tourism. Our latest estimates now show that we will have welcomed over 9.6 million overseas tourists and 9.8 million domestic trips this year, generating €7.8 billion in revenue. There is now an impressive 260,000 people estimated to be employed in the sector, an increase of 20,000 since 2017. The tourism industry is vitally important for Ireland, particularly when you consider that this growth in revenue and jobs is generated in many parts of the country where many other major industries do not exist. Therefore, we cannot become complacent.
"There are many challenges ahead. The return to the 13.5% VAT rate will be a significant commercial challenge for tourism businesses, and the resulting upward price pressure could damage our international competitiveness. Similarly, Brexit and the potential wide-ranging implications it may bring pose a major challenge for 2019. However, despite these challenges, there is still lots of cause for optimism in the sector; continued long term global growth in tourism; new market opportunities; our industry’s excellent international reputation; new accommodation capacity and tourism attractions coming on stream; increased government investment in the sector; and, critically, further improvements to direct air access forecast for next year."
Kelly set out some of the key initiatives planned for 2019, which include:
- Visitor experience development plans in the regions – Working with local stakeholders, tourism businesses and communities, shared long-term tourism plans will be developed to drive visitor numbers to lesser known areas and attractions such as the Inishowen Penisula on the Wild Atlantic Way or attractions that bring to life specific themes, such as the "Castles & Conquests" theme in Ireland’s Ancient East.
- Tourism Careers – A new hospitality and tourism careers oversight group will be established to address labour supply and skills developments issues which are currently affecting growth for tourism businesses. Chaired by Fáilte Ireland, members will include industry representative bodies, education providers and state agencies.
- Increased marketing and sales – New investment by Fáilte Ireland in domestic and Northern Ireland marketing and business tourism overseas.
Aiming For Another Record Year
Kelly added, "Our aim is to deliver another record year in 2019 and we forecast that growth of as much as 5% could be achieved. For tourism to continue to grow, it will need to be planned in a sustainable way for visitors, industry, communities and the environment. Our plans for the year ahead focus on how we can both meet the challenges and leverage the opportunities facing the industry to keep the current growth momentum going by spreading visitors across the country and growing business in the off-season months to make sure Ireland remains a high quality destination, which provides good value for our visitors."
© 2018 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.