US and domestic holiday market up but…

Bernadette Randles: The government must not disregard the importance of tourism

TOURISM figures reached record levels last year but early indications from hotels and guesthouses in Kerry are that it will be challenging for the industry to maintain growth in 2019.

The latest industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation shows that the domestic market is holding and US business levels are continuing to rise but business from continental Europe shows signs of softening and business levels from the UK market are still falling.

Kerry HIS chairperson Bernadette Randles said the heightened risk of a disruptive Brexit is a serious concern for the tourism industry.

Other major concerns highlighted include reduced competitiveness due to increases in the cost of doing business and the hike in tourism VAT.

According to the IHF survey, 64 per cent of hoteliers say domestic business levels are holding with some reporting increases compared to this time last year. This market is of particular importance to regional tourism, where the recovery has been slower. Further afield, the US market continues to perform strongly with 38 per cent of hoteliers reporting increases in business.

Closer to home, 62 per cent have seen a drop in business levels from Northern Ireland while almost three quarters of hoteliers report a fall-off from Great Britain.

“With the prospect of a prolonged and disruptive Brexit looming, the government must not disregard the importance of tourism,” Bernadette Radles said.

“Wecontinue to have a two-tiered tourism industry which government policy is failing to address. There are parts of the industry that are performing well though the rate of growth appears to be slowing. However, not every tourism business or part of the country is enjoying the same level of success,” she added.

“There are many areas where tourism remains very seasonal and hospitality businesses struggle to break even during off-peak periods. These businesses can ill afford to take another economic hit,” the IHF chairperson stated.

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