Hospitality Industry 'Feeling Brexit Already', Says New RAI Chief
The chairman of the Kinsale Good Food Circle and the Restaurants Association of Ireland's (RAI) new president has commented that "Kinsale has been quieter than usual [from November to now] and we are feeling Brexit already".
Liam Edwards, who runs the Jim Edwards Restaurant, Bar & Guesthouse with his family, said that 45 per cent of its customers come from England but "that there are already fewer English people coming during the off-season", reports the Irish Independent.
"In the last few years, when the pound was close to parity with the euro, the English kept saying what excellent value the town was for restaurants and hotel room prices. The bookings are okay and I remain positive, but there is a lot of uncertainty about the future," he added.
Irish Hotels Federation Warning
Speaking at the annual Irish Hotels Federation conference, chief executive Tim Fenn, warned that the impact of Brexit is likely to be more pronounced this year, with rural tourism to be the hardest hit. A survey that was carried out for the conference also revealed that 95 per cent of hoteliers and guesthouse owners are concerned about the impact of Brexit, while 29 per cent said that they had already seen a decline in their UK business.
Niall Rochford, Ashford Castle's general manager commented: "I would have expected a stronger performance from the UK, purely because so much was invested in the last three years and because we are now part of Red Carnation, a UK collection. But we are not seeing the kind of improvements from the UK market that we would have expected. The US market is performing exceptionally well and the domestic market is performing well, but to date this year the UK market is on a par to this time last year. Even though the UK only accounts for 10 per cent of our business, we are very much aware of the potential impact Brexit could have on us.
"Nobody really knows what the impact will be like. We work very hard on PR in the UK, but because we're a single unit hotel rather than a chain, it's like throwing a stone into a pond sometimes. So we rely on Tourism Ireland to promote Ireland as a whole. It needs to increase marketing in the UK and we are also contributing more funds towards UK marketing."
Anthony Gray, a former RAI president and owner of the Eala Bhán bistro in Sligo, added: "The hospitality industry is 100 per cent going to be affected. With the value of sterling, the British are not going to get the same value they used to here. There's a drop-off, especially on bank holiday weekends, when we would typically get visitors from Enniskillen or Derry. We don't hear Northern accents as much as we used to [...] We need government to come out with a coherent plan for the tourism sector in Ireland and they need to tell us how to be prepared."