Irish tourism back to 70pc pre-pandemic levels but sector group warns of ‘economic headwinds’
The Irish tourism industry saw an increase in tourism following the removal of the majority of restrictions on Covid-19 earlier in the year. There were seven million international visitors visiting Ireland by 2022.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) has released its final of the year numbers which revealed that the sector experienced a 73 percent growth in its revenue compared to pre-pandemic peak of the year.
Of the seven million people who traveled during the year ITIC calculated that 2.6 million were directly from Mainland Europe, down 28pc from the previous year. 2.4 million were directly from Britain (-30pc), 1.5 million were via North America (-22pc) while 0.46 million were from the long haul market (-32pc).
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The body responsible for tourism said that there was a gradual ease in travel restrictions in March, the pace and magnitude of the rise in tourism into Ireland “exceeded expectations and the surge in demand surpassed most industry projections”.
In the future, ITIC “welcomed the growth in air access” to Ireland but declared “significant concern” that continued growth could be put at risk due to “soaring cost inflation, the energy crisis, and the impact of Government contracts with tourism accommodation suppliers”.
It also said that the estimates for next year’s forecast vary from an “dip on this year’s performance to single digit growth”.
It is estimated that the ITIC suggests that complete tourist recovery to levels in 2019 is unlikely to be reached until 2026. the ITIC cites “economic headwinds globally, allied to cost inflation and supply constraints at home”.
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, the chairperson of ITIC, stated: “2022 has thankfully been more successful than I had expected with a sluggish demand, delayed bookings and savings that have accumulated increasing business this year. It is essential that the industry reverts towards sustainable expansion”.
“We obviously hope that we can continue momentum and recovery into next year but the Government must enable tourism success by extending the 9pc Vat rate and reducing supply bottlenecks”.
The ITIC has also expressed concerns regarding the issue of housing caused by the refugee crisis.
ITIC Chief Executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, stated that the availability of accommodation for tourists will remain “severely restricted” next year and this will have an impact on the general recovery of the tourism economy.
“We currently estimate that around 28pc of all beds for tourism in the region of Ireland are not accessible to the economy of tourism due to contracts signed by the Government.
“While hotels and guesthouses are part of the solution to accommodate refugees, they cannot be the only solution.
If this level of tourism accommodation stock is not available next year for international visitors it could cost the broader tourism industry up to EUR1bn in lost earnings,” the official said.
The ITIC also said that other businesses, such as bars, shops, attractions, pubs and restaurants, as well as cultural experiences would be hit the hardest and will be particularly hard hit, with Failte Ireland data showing that for each EUR1 the tourist spends on lodging, EUR2.50 is spent on tourist services that are ancillary to tourism.
The ITIC has demanded the creation of a “balanced two-year humanitarian plan” from the Government regarding how asylum seekers and refugees can be accommodated.
This includes the utilization for “vacant buildings, state institutions, unused dwellings and modular housing as well as tourism accommodation stock“.
“If there are no tourism beds in tourism towns next summer there will be no tourism activity and that will have a very negative impact on local economies,” Mr Walsh added.