Confidence in the Irish tourism industry about its prospects for the year ahead is at its highest level for many years with almost all accommodation providers in the sector expecting to increase or maintain business in 2014.
This confidence has been boosted by a combination of recent Government initiatives, improving overseas markets and the impact of last year’s ‘Gathering’ initiative, it was revealed today at Fáilte Ireland’s Annual Tourism Industry Review.
“One of Ireland’s largest indigenous industries, tourism has a spring in its step once more and is poised to play a pivotal role in the continuing national recovery. Crucially, when it comes to job creation, the sector can reach those parts that other industries don’t. With €100 million invested in Fáilte Ireland initiatives in recent years, including the new Wild Atlantic Way, and an overall increase in overseas visitors anticipated during 2014, tourism is well placed to deliver additional revenue and employment to many areas outside the major metropolitan hubs,” Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn said.
During 2013, visitor numbers grew by 7% and foreign earnings rose by €300m boosting overall confidence in the sector. Business sentiment (regarding 2013 and looking to 2014) is on the up for seven out of 10 tourism operators, a long way from the lows of 2009-10.
The buoyancy in the sector has also been reflected in employment numbers. It is now estimated that 137,700 people are employed in the accommodation and food service sectors alone. This represents an increase of almost 12% (14,700 extra jobs) since 2012. Fáilte Ireland estimates that total tourism employment (when other parts of the sector such as conferencing, attractions and festivals are included) is now approaching 200,000.
In 2013, more than half of tourism businesses (54%) surveyed by Fáilte Ireland increased employment and, looking at anticipated growth in tourism for the year ahead, it is estimated employment could increase by 6,000 to 8,000. This is based on projected overseas demand and trade sentiment for the coming season.
Expectations within the tourism sector for 2014 are very positive. After a strong 2013, the industry enters this year with a clearly positive frame of mind. There is a belief that tourism will continue to grow thanks to the legacy of The Gathering, Ireland’s growing competitiveness and a general rise in optimism amongst consumers.
Other important factors which are colouring the sector’s sentiment include the abolition of the airport tax and the improvement in overseas access (with new routes planned for 2014) which is anticipated to bring in increasing numbers of overseas visitors.
Fuel and energy costs remain the biggest issue of concern for tourism businesses facing into 2014 with seven out of 10 (72%) mentioning them as likely to affect their business next year.
Overall, in terms of direction for 2014, it seems that there will be less of a focus on cost controls/reduction as there has been for the last six years and more of an emphasis on activities that will grow revenue streams and profitability.