• Cyril McAree

Tourism’s Turned Tables – New Data Reveals A Surge In Irish Travel To The UK As Brits Stay Away From

Irish demand for travel to the UK is booming as the number of UK citizens heading to Ireland falls. That’s the finding of new analysis published by foreign exchange specialist, FEXCO Corporate Payments.Researchers analysed more than 400 transactions made by Irish travel agents through FEXCO Corporate Payments* during the first eight months of both 2016 and 2017. By the end of August 2017, Irish travel agents had spent 68% more on UK travel and accommodation than they did during the same period in 2016.

While the total number of UK-bound transactions increased by a relatively modest 9% between 2016 and 2017, the average transaction size rose by more than half (54%), from €3,978 in 2016 to €6,110 in 2017.The findings suggest travel agents are buying more UK bed nights for customers this year compared to last, as more Irish travellers choose Britain over other European destinations.

The jump in the size - rather than the frequency - of Irish travel agents’ Sterling purchases could also indicate an increased appetite among Irish tourists to capitalise on the weak Pound, and treat themselves to a more luxurious trip when going to the UK.

Meanwhile, tourist traffic heading the other way across the Irish Sea continues to decline. The latest official data from the Central Statistics Office shows that during the first seven months of 2017, 2,087,100 Britons visited Ireland, a 6.2% decrease on the same period in 2016.

British residents still accounted for the largest single group of visitors to Ireland, but their share of the total slipped from 41% in the first seven months of 2016 to 37% during the same period this year. A recent survey of hotel owners and managers by the Irish Hotels Federation showed 57% had seen a year-on-year decrease in visitor numbers from Britain.

Meanwhile the number of visitors from every other region increased (Europe ex-Britain +4.3%, US +17.4%, and Rest of World +17.5%), driving total visitor numbers up by 3.1% over their 2016 level.

David Lamb, head of dealing at FEXCO Corporate Payments, explained:

“Our data shows that Irish travel agents are responding to Ireland’s booming demand for travel to - and accommodation in - the UK. Their increased spending is likely to be driven by their customers choosing the UK over Eurozone countries in order to benefit from Sterling weakness.”

“The flipside of this is that the consistent weakness of Sterling against the Euro for much of 2017 has led many British tourists to stay away from Ireland. Fáilte Ireland, the tourism promotion body, now predicts there will be 300,000 fewer British visitors to Ireland this year.”

“Fortunately, Ireland’s tourism industry has been insulated from major fallout by the uptick in visitors from elsewhere, including an 4% increase from other European countries and a 17% increase from North America. However, this growth in demand elsewhere is not shared by Irish exporters for whom the UK is their main market, and where opening up new markets will take time.”

“As Sterling’s surprise spike in September showed, the Pound is likely to strengthen as the prospect of a UK interest rate rise draws nearer. Irish travel agents may therefore wish to consider locking in the current favourable exchange rate by using a forward contract.”


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