The latest figures released by Fáilte Ireland on visitor numbers in 2010 which show an overall decline of 15 per cent on the 2009 figure to levels last seen in 1998, are extremely disappointing as Government inaction has let this downward trend continue.
“2010 was certainly a difficult year for Irish tourism with adverse weather conditions and the paralysis from the Icelandic ash cloud adding to an already difficult trading environment,” said Labour candidate for the upcoming General Election, Dr Jerry Cowley. “The severity of the decline, including an 18 per cent drop in visitors from our largest market Britain, is however most worrying.”
Dr Cowley has noted that there are jobs and businesses dependent on a buoyant tourism industry and he said the latest figures do not inspire confidence.
In June last year, the Labour Party published a tourism policy document – Extending the Welcome: Labour’s proposals to sustain and develop the Tourism Industry - which outlined immediate steps to be taken to arrest this decline including abolishing the air travel tax, reforming our outdated visa processing system, addressing the issue of “zombie hotels”, and introducing legislation to allow for the downward review of rents.
“To date, belated action has only been taken on one of these crucial steps, the travel tax. This delay is simply indefensible given the importance of tourism as an economic and employment generator across the country,” said Dr Cowley.
“Recent endorsements for the Irish tourism industry from Frommer’s travel guide, putting Ireland as the top tourism destination for 2011 and getting voted ‘Most Popular Destination 2010’ from a major Chinese newspaper, show the high regard in which our tourism product is held abroad and the opportunity that exists to develop this vital indigenous industry.
“We have a world class tourism product; however we do not have a Government to match and this is delaying action on the steps necessary to help our tourism agencies reverse the decline in tourist numbers and let tourism play its full role in stimulating our economic recovery.”