Mayo hoteliers this week welcomed the setting up by Minister Mary Hanafin of an industry wide group to oversee and drive actions on measures to support tourism in Ireland. Fergal Ryan, Chairman of the Mayo branch of Irish Hotels Federation (IHF ), stated that tourism must remain to the fore of Government policy and decision making if Ireland’s largest indigenous industry is to play its full role in the recovery of the Irish economy. In particular, Mr Ryan welcomed the commitment shown by Minister Hanafin in chairing the renewal implementation group and the Government’s acknowledgement of the importance of maintaining investment in overseas marketing. He also congratulated local hotelier John Raftery, chairman of the IHF Marketing Committee and proprietor of the Downhill Inn Hotel, Ballina, on his appointment to the Group.
“I am immensely encouraged by the variety of people and spectrum of talent represented on this new board. Here in the west we are particularly vulnerable to poor decisions made at national level. This has never been more evident than the recent decision to shelve the Western Rail Corridor, which by any measure represented tremendous value-for-money in the west of Ireland”, said Mr Ryan, adding that based on current numbers to date on the existing section, passenger volumes have reached three times those previously anticipated.
Mr Ryan continued: “Ireland West Airport Knock has enormous untapped potential that, if harnessed properly, would greatly assist in growing the region’s tourism sector. We’re calling on the group to explore how additional support can be provided for Knock with a view to re-energising visitor numbers to the west of Ireland from Britain and the EU markets.”
Commenting on disappointing overseas visitor numbers for May, Mr Ryan said that new figures from the Central Statistics Office were truly shocking and offered little comfort to Mayo’s tourism sector.
“These figures serve to highlight further the severe trading environment that hotels and guest-houses across the county continue to face. With hotel occupancy levels at historic lows, maintaining investment in international marketing must remain a priority into 2011. This is of particular importance for the British market, which has collapsed over the last two years, and is of vital importance for tourism in Mayo.”