• Cyril McAree

Tourism Sector Sentiment Softens in Latest Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer

The latest Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer, a survey of tourism businesses around the country, has been published and shows that overall industry sentiment, while still healthy, is less positive than in recent post-crisis years. The industry started this year facing a lot of uncertainty over Brexit, exchange rates and the surprise US presidential election result but the general feeling in the sector is one of relief that this year has worked out better than expected.

Accommodation performing well

The tourism accommodation sector is performing well this year, with 63% of businesses receiving more visitors than the same period last year. Hotels are behind this strong performance, with two thirds (65%) saying that visitor levels are up. The strength of the North American market is a significant factor. Guesthouses are also enjoying a good year, with about half (52%) experiencing increased visitor levels. The German market is performing very well for them – about three in five (58%) guesthouses have had more German visitors this year.

B&Bs are also up on balance and 44% have had more visitors to date this year with a further 35% holding steady. Like guesthouses, the strength of the German market is a key positive with well over half (57%) of B&Bs receiving more German visitors this year.

The Brexit effect

However, when tourism enterprises are surveyed about performance across markets, Northern Ireland and Britain clearly stand out as areas of concern. Half of the accommodation providers surveyed are reporting British business down and two in five have experienced a drop in Northern Irish tourists. The proportion of those businesses impacted rises in northern counties - Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan and Sligo – which are most exposed to those markets.

In terms of the Sterling/Euro exchange rate, about two thirds (68%) of accommodation businesses in Northern counties say they have been affected by the exchange rate this year – as compared to a lower proportion (44%) of accommodation businesses in the rest of the country. The barometer also shows that 58% of Dublin accommodation providers are also affected by the value of Sterling – disproportionally more than the rest of the country.

Commenting on the publication of the Barometer study, Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly emphasised:

“Tourism performance, in general, is still robust but Brexit is having an impact. On a national level, losses from the British market are being compensated for by strong performances in American and other markets. However, for those regions that are heavily reliant on British and Northern Irish tourists this offers little consolation and Brexit is already making a real impact in many counties.“The recent retention of the lower VAT rate will be of assistance to any struggling businesses. Furthermore, through our ‘Get Brexit Ready’ programme, Fáilte Ireland is working with those tourism businesses who are over-reliant on the British market to help them minimise their risks by diversifying into other stronger prospects.”

Overall Industry Sentiment

Industry sentiment is positive regarding this year’s performance. However, a sense of caution is emerging, with almost a third of accommodation providers maintaining the status quo in 2017 and 15% expressing negative sentiment. Observing the trend, confidence is at its lowest levels in four years.

Tourism Business Sentiment Autumn 2008-2017

Other key points from today’s survey include:

  • Americans are on the rise in two thirds of hotels and European numbers have been strong

  • Americans are making up for the fall in British visitors to attractions

  • Some hostels are enjoying a Wild Atlantic Way boost

  • Irish holidaymakers are pitching up at campsites

  • Restaurants are being hurt by a large fall in British customers

  • Self-catering operators are very dependent on repeat visitors

  • The Irish golfer is performing strongly on the fairways

The Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer is a survey of approximately 550 tourism businesses providing insight into performance for the year to date and prospects for the remainder of the year and into the following year. The full report can be accessed HERE.


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