Hotel and guesthouse owners in Galway and across the country are reporting a good start to the year, according to an industry survey undertaken by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF ) in advance of its 80th Annual Conference in Cavan.
Most are forecasting an increase in business levels for 2018 with advance bookings up from domestic and key overseas markets, helping to offset the drop in bookings from the UK, Ireland’s largest market, where visitor numbers continue to fall. The high cost of doing business, including insurance, continues to be a major concern.
Seven in ten (72 per cent ) hoteliers say their overall business levels are up compared to this time last year, with a similar number (68 per cent ) reporting an increase in advance bookings for the remainder of the year. Business levels from the US look set to remain strong with over half of hoteliers surveyed reporting an increase in business from this market. Visitor numbers are up too from continental Europe with almost a third (32 per cent ) reporting an increase in business from Germany and nearly a quarter (23 per cent ) seeing a rise from France.
Rory Fitzpatrick, Chair, Galway branch of the Irish Hotels Federation said that overall hoteliers are confident about the outlook for 2018, but not complacent. “The increase in business levels that we are seeing from key international markets and from within Ireland itself, following on from strong growth in recent years, gives us some confidence.
“However, the negative effect on visitor numbers from the weakened sterling and uncertainty over Brexit reminds us that we’re an island nation, dependent on the vagaries of other, larger economies, and there is never room for complacency,” he said. Tourism currently supports 17,000 jobs in Galway and contributes some €762 million to the local economy annually.
“We operate in a price sensitive sector where we compete with the UK for overseas visitors. A sustained fall in sterling could have a negative effect on visitor numbers from other markets who may opt instead to go to the UK. Cost-competitiveness is critical. Government cannot influence the economic conditions affecting other countries but there is a wide policy range of measures within their control that can enhance competitiveness. The 9 per cent VAT rate and zero travel tax, for example, have been hugely significant in underpinning the recovery of the tourism sector. However, more needs to be done to bring down the high costs that are stifling business in Ireland such as insurance, where the costs are now so high they are a significant concern for almost nine in ten hoteliers (88 per cent ),” he said.
Mr Fitzpatrick added, that it is important that there is a continued commitment to enhancing and developing the experiences that we offer visitors - from at home and overseas.
“The hotel sector has an important role to play here and, as our member survey highlights, most hoteliers across the country are planning to invest in their properties this year – from expansion in some cases, to refurbishment, or investing in new technology to upgrade existing operational and guest services.
“But, it’s also about market diversification and reinvigorating our tourism brand, to create compelling offers that appeal to new markets while at the same time helping us to consolidate our market share in existing markets. More needs to be done, especially in regional tourism marketing. There are parts of the country like the Shannon Corridor, which have much to offer and with the right support they could expand Ireland’s tourism offering and greatly benefit the rural economy,” he added.