A difficult start to the year due to weather conditions somewhat dampened tourism sentiment for many sectors but most businesses report a positive outlook for the remainder of the year. This was one of the findings from the latest Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer, a survey of more than 500 tourism businesses around the country. The report also shows that the proportion of tourism businesses expecting trade to be up in the year ahead greatly outweighs those expecting a downturn. This is especially true in the accommodation sector, where two thirds expect increased visitors compared to 2017.
Although the experience of having fewer visitors due to the poor weather has brought the figure down slightly, the overall industry sentiment is good as feedback from operators and industry leaders shows that the rest of the year is being looked at with high hopes, and that tourism is strong.
Factors underpinning current sentiment include:
• The impact of the poor weather conditions particularly had an impact on caravan and campsite businesses, with almost a half seeing a decrease in visitors during the first quarter of this year. In addition, over half of golf clubs reported a decrease in visitors as a result of the weather.
• The paid serviced accommodation (PSA) sector - including hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs - has enjoyed a strong start to 2018, with around half (48%) of businesses receiving more visitors to date than the same period last year. A further 29% have received the same level.
• Hotels are performing particularly well, with 52% welcoming more visitors than in 2017. The domestic market is key to this success – not just in leisure tourism but business tourism also. Close to half (46%) of hotels say their domestic corporate business is up, and a further 42% say it has remained the same.
• About three quarters (73%) of businesses say that repeat visitors are a positive factor in their outlook for this year. This is particularly important during times of uncertainty, such as Brexit, for maintaining stability.
• More than half (53%) of businesses say that their own investment is one of the main factors they expect to have a positive impact on their business this year.
• In every sector, the proportion of businesses expecting to be up for 2018 greatly outweighs those expecting to be down. This is especially true in the PSA sector, where two thirds (67%) expect increased visitors compared to 2017 and only a small minority (5%) expect a decrease.
Commenting on the trends in the study, Fáilte Ireland’s chief executive Paul Kelly emphasised,“Our Tourism Barometer gives us an up to date and nuanced insight into performance data so that we have a really clear picture of how every facet of the industry is performing, and where the opportunities and issues may lie in the year ahead. It’s clear that the industry felt that poor weather conditions affected their businesses in the first quarter of the year. What is striking about this report however, is how upbeat the industry is about the year ahead. It indicates that for many individual businesses, advance bookings must be very good and prospects for the year ahead are particularly strong in the accommodation sector.”
Commenting on the impact Brexit is having on Northern counties, Kelly added, “I’m particularly pleased to note that things have improved in the Northern counties, compared to our last Barometer in December 2017, which showed that businesses in the region were being significantly impacted by Brexit. While businesses in border counties are reporting Northern Ireland business to be down, their overall performance is up on balance. This would suggest some diversification in visitor markets for those regions – something which has been a central component of our ‘Get Brexit Ready’ programme. Last year we worked with over 600 businesses to anticipate and prepare for further consequences from the Brexit effect, and to minimise any over-exposure to our nearest overseas market. We look forward to providing more support in the year ahead.”
The Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer is a survey of tourism businesses providing insight into performance for the year to date, and prospects for the following year. Over 500 responses – through an online survey with tourism businesses or top-up telephone interviews – are collated and qualitative interviews with senior industry executives are also conducted to capture sentiment and views from across the tourism sector.Although the experience of having fewer visitors due to the poor weather has brought the figure down slightly, the overall industry sentiment is good as feedback from operators and industry leaders shows that the rest of the year is being looked at with high hopes, and that tourism is strong.
© 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.