Speaking at an Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) event on Wednesday May 1 about the organisation’s 2025 strategy for the tourism sector, ITIC chairperson Ruth Andrews stated that government inaction on tourism included soaring costs of business, inadequate overseas marketing budgets, new regulations curbing self-catering tourism accommodation, and increased taxation and labour regulations.
ITIC estimates that tourism sector growth in 2019 at 3% will only be half of what official estimates had stated earlier in the year.
The confederation has called on the government to prove its commitment to tourism and not lose the opportunity for regional growth.
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Speaking at the media event, Andrews said, "We are fearful that a hard Brexit coupled with the VAT hike in the last budget will cost Irish tourism close to €1 billion. We’re at a key junction in Irish tourism and the government must take a lead to help restore Irish tourism’s competitiveness at this uncertain time."
"Tourism: An Industry Strategy for Growth to 2025"
ITIC issued a 12-month progress update on its eight-year roadmap for the sector, which is entiteld "Tourism: An Industry Strategy for Growth to 2025". According to ITIC, Ireland’s tourism industry delivered a 6% increase in revenue and tax receipts to the exchequer in 2018, as well as creating 35,000 new jobs in the sector. However, ITIC asserted that ongoing growth is being threatened by weakened competitiveness, inadequate government investment and rising costs of business.
ITIC’s "Tourism: An Industry Strategy for Growth to 2025" estimates that revenue can grow by 65% and that 80,000 jobs will be created across tourism and hospitality in the coming years. However, this is predicated on the policy recommendations within the strategy being implemented by industry, tourism agencies and the government.
Andrew said that pro-tourism policies were vital. She urged the speedy lifting of two of the planning restrictions for the new runway at Dublin Airport.
In its progress update, ITIC CEO Eoghan O’Mara Walsh stated that, of the 51 recommendations within the strategy, 13 had been implemented, 28 are a work-in-progress and warrant increased focus, while 10 are heading in the wrong direction.
O’Mara Walsh said that although tourism was at a record high, 2019 would be tougher than anticipated with hotel occupancy in decline for the year to date.
He stated, "Brexit is already having a material impact with Britain, our biggest market, down 3% in March. British visitors have the best seasonal and regional spread, so this will inevitably effect the region’s most."
Urging More Investment
O’Mara Walsh urged more investment by the government in tourism, saying, "The modest increase this year only brings tourism funding back to 2008 levels. That is a long decade of underinvestment. If the government is serious about doubling Ireland’s global footprint, it needs to prove its commitment to the tourism sector."
He added that the tourism industry has committed approximately €2.5 billion over the
next three years and said, "There are over 5,000 new hotel bedrooms currently on site across the country as tourism invests in its future. The government must play its part and support Ireland’s largest indigenous industry.
"The industry’s competitiveness has been seriously weakened by the government’s decision to hike the tourism VAT rate by 50% and unsustainable business cost increases for SMEs, which are the backbone of the sector."
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