On the back of an 11 per cent increase in overseas visitors coupled with a strengthening in consumer confidence, the average national room occupancy rate for Irish hotels and guesthouses reached a 10-year high of 70% in 2015, according to the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).
This figure compares with a 64 per cent occupancy rate in 2014.
The good news for the Irish hotel sector comes as the IHF today (29 February) kicks off the 78th staging of its annual conference, which once again takes place in Killarney over the next two days.
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IHF Chief Executive Tim Fenn said that the creation of over 33,000 new jobs by tourism and hospitality businesses since 2011, "highlights the vital economic role being played by the sector as an engine of growth and employment".
The IHF has highlighted that the tourism industry now supports approximately 205,000 jobs - equivalent to 11% of total employment in the country with over 57,000 of these jobs in the hotels sector.
“Tourism has been the shining light in Ireland’s economic recovery and there’s a real sense of optimism in the sector following last year’s strong performance. The upturn in visitor numbers is continuing, which bodes well for the outlook over the next twelve months,” said Fenn. “We’re making enormous strides in growing market share thanks to highly effective marketing and a competitively priced product. This is reflected in recent research by Fáilte Ireland showing 95 per cent of holidaymakers saying they are satisfied in terms of value money which is a significant factor.”
He added that Irish hotels are among the most competitively priced in Europe and significantly lower than our key competitors.
“While there has been some growth in rates recently, he says it’s important to recognise that these are recovery room rates from a very low base following the downturn. This is enabling hoteliers to reinvest revenues within the sector, enable the industry to enhance its product and create additional employment”
During 2015, overseas visitors grew by 798,000 to 7.9 million with increases across all key markets. North America delivered a robust performance with visitors up by 13 per cent to 1.3 million in 2015. Visitors from mainland Europe were up 14 per cent to 2.84 million while visitors from Britain – Ireland’s main tourism market – were up by 8 per cent to 3.25 million.
IHF reports that some 85 per cent of hoteliers are reporting increased levels of business this year from the home market, with people taking more trips at home and spending more money in the local economy.
"This is of tremendous importance given demand from the island of Ireland accounts for the 69% of all hotel bed nights," said Fenn.
Total revenue generated across all tourism-related businesses in 2015 was up 10.7% at €7.27 billion and accounted for 4% GNP. Of this, €5.76 billion was attributed to foreign exchange earnings from overseas visitors (up 12.9% on 2014) and €1.51 billion to home-grown tourism (up 3% on 2014).