Irish hotels and guesthouses have seen an increase in business levels during the first six months of 2017, according to the latest quarterly barometer from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).
As the latest CSO figures show overseas visitors up over 3% to the end of May, the industry survey shows that the domestic market is increasing also with seven in ten (71%) hoteliers saying business levels are up compared to this time last year. Overall, three quarters (76%) of hoteliers are reporting increased levels in business year on year.
The strong performance for domestic tourism looks set to continue into the busy summer season.
Over two thirds (68%) of hoteliers say bookings are up while six in ten (59%) report that advance bookings for staycations for the remainder of 2017 are up too. The general outlook for the rest of the year appears positive overall and Ireland looks on course to surpass the 8.8 million overseas visits set last year. More than half of hoteliers (52%) report increases in advance bookings from the United States, 35% for Germany and 27% for France.
However, IHF President Joe Dolan warned that Brexit is already impacting on tourism performance.
“Visitor numbers are up, which is good news and the growth in domestic tourism is particularly encouraging as it extends beyond the traditional tourism hot spots and its impact on local economies can be felt more widely," said Dolan. "However, the latest CSO figures show a continued fall in UK visitors, our biggest market, which illustrates the fragility of the tourism recovery.”
Dolan added: “Many of the consequences of Brexit are largely outside our control, so it is imperative that we mitigate the risks and potential damage where we do have some control over our destiny. Continued growth remains a priority for the sector, which is the country’s largest indigenous employer. It is achievable but it requires specific actions. Ireland’s competitive tourism offering will certainly help and this is underpinned by important measures as the zero rate travel tax and the 9% tourism VAT rate which brings us into line with other countries in Europe.
Meanwhile, the latest IHF barometer also has good news for school leavers and those seeking a career in the hospitality sector. Some 50,000 new jobs have been created in tourism since 2011 andthe industry is on track to create a further 40,000 jobs nationally by 2021. According to the latest barometer three in five (61%) hoteliers have recruited new staff over the past 12 months and nearly three in ten (29%) are planning to increase staff numbers over the next 12 months. Mr Dolan said that the industry is looking to recruit over 6,000 entry-level employees each year across all areas of its operations. The tourism industry now supports approximately 230,000 jobs - equivalent to 11% of total employment in Ireland.
Increased confidence is also allowing hoteliers to invest more freely in their businesses with almost all hotel and guesthouses (91%) indicating that they intend to invest in refurbishment and increased capital expenditure within the next year. Most (94%) of these are planning refurbishment projects while over a third (37%) intend to invest in new technology for the properties. One in five (20%) plan to expand their existing premises.