• Cyril McAree

'Brexit Readiness' With Fáilte Ireland’s ‘Get Brexit Ready’ Programme!

Fáilte Ireland’s ‘Get Brexit Ready’ programme was recently launched in the their Dublin Headquarters. The programme is based on four main pillars; Brexit Readiness -which will assist businesses to remain competitive. Spreading the Risk- which will help businesses with market diversification and protect against an over-dependence on the British market. Battling for Britain – which will help businesses with British market retention and Fitting Fit - People capability for improved business performance.

The programme will roll out in a number of ways with workshops being held in the most Brexit vulnerable areas over the next two months. There will also be access to the programme via the ‘Get Brexit Ready’ website which offers businesses a self-assessment tool and a survey which helps them to identify where they are most vulnerable what strategies they need to focus on. As part of the programme there is also an online knowledge hub called ‘Brexit Bytes’ which will allow for new initiatives and sharing of information as the impact of Brexit becomes clearer.

At the launch the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin commended the work of Fáilte Ireland on this initiative as he said Brexit is a key issue for the industry that will affect all sectors. “There has been a 6% decline in UK visitors to the country in the first six months. Overall however, visitor numbers are up by 3%. We have a currency issue to contend with but we still have a very competitive product to offer”, said the Minister. Minister Griffin went on say that Brexit isn’t a reason for the industry to give up on the UK market. “This is a challenge and we will rise to it. I am confident that with everyone working together we can assess our risk areas and find solutions”, he said.

Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland spoke next and he highlighted the scale and importance of the business of Tourism to the country. “Tourism generates 8 billion in revenue to the country which equates to a quarter of a million jobs. Our most important market is our nearest market and that is the UK; the British and Northern Irish visitor”, Paul explained. He went on to say that while there are still a lot of unknowns in terms of Brexit, we do know that there has been a drop in UK visitors to the country which equates to a revenue loss of 88 million and 1,900 less jobs in the sector. “Britain is now cheaper for visitors from other markets. So, now the UK is also our biggest competitor”, Paul said. He went on to emphasise the importance of retaining our value for money reputation and increasing the value for money experience for visitors.

Paul Keeley, Director of Business Development in Fáilte described Brexit as a ‘fog’ due to all the unknowns. However he said the first six months of this year have brought some clarity and he said we must respond to what we know. Paul said we must respond to Brexit in waves and as we get more clarity, then create initiatives and respond. Paul explained that the overall focus of Fáilte Ireland’s Brexit programme is to help businesses retain their GB visitors and also, to diversify to ensure they reach other markets. Paul described Brexit as a moving target so he said any response has to be adaptable. Paul also explained that the range of measures included in the Fáilte Ireland programme offers businesses a range of interventions, across all sectors and for every staffing level.

Fáilte Ireland partnered with those at the cold -face of the industry as well as Cornell University to ensure the Brexit programme was researched based as well as applicable to business. Joe Dolan, President of the Irish Hotels Federation spoke at the launch about the areas he felt were most Brexit vulnerable.“The poorest performing areas for tourism are the biggest risk areas in terms of Brexit”, he said. “63% of visitors to Leitrim and 65% of visitors to Monaghan are from the UK. For these areas and for other border counties UK visitors are the biggest off season visitors as well as the visitor population with the biggest impact on local economies”, Joe explained. According to Joe, for these areas, Brexit has impacted already and the rate of decline is acute. Joe discussed the loss in the retail sector also due to the currency difference, the loss of the UK visitor but also because the tourist from the South is now going north. “We are facing big losses this Christmas as we see people from the south already shopping in the North. Weddings are moving North and coach tours and golf tours are in decline in the border counties and through the midlands areas”, he said. Joe continued, “the short break leisure market is much more expensive for people from the north now and Belfast has become a huge competitor as many people from the south are availing of short-break deals there”, explained Joe.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland was also in attendance and spoke of his organisations full support of the Fáilte Ireland Brexit programme. “Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world”, he explained. “This year the EU market was worth 750 million globally, North America and the USA was worth 620 million and the UK is worth 450 million globally. This is market diversification in real terms and we need to ensure that Ireland is competing for a share of these markets”, Niall said. Niall also pointed out that Tourism Ireland is continuing to build a strong platform in the UK with a big year round active programme including Kodaline heading a campaign, Alled Jones and their presence on Smooth FM as well as the digital platforms in the UK that Tourism Ireland have developed.

At the end of the launch Minister Griffin was asked about his proposals for the upcoming budget and he was keen to point out that he recognised the importance of the 9% VAT rate saying “if it’s not broken, why fix it”.

#Brexit #FailteIreland

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