Lack of investment in Irish tourism ‘hurting hotel sector’

The long-term sustainability of the tourism sector is being compromised by a lack of State investment, the hotels federation annual conference has heard.

Cutbacks have taken €25m from the coffers of the State’s tourism bodies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, since 2012 — a development that is putting long-term growth at risk.

Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) president Stephen McNally told more than 300 assembled delegates at the annual conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan that the time has come to reverse the cuts made during the recession.

“It is now time to reverse the cuts to tourism funding which were made at a time of deep economic crisis,” said Mr McNally. “Current low levels of investment cannot be sustained without putting our tourism brand at risk and limiting Irish tourism capacity to continue to expand and grow market share.”

Since 2012, funding to the State’s two tourism bodies has fallen by 17% from €144m to €119m this year.

Fáilte Ireland, which is responsible for tourism product development and domestic marketing, receives the bulk of that funding, accounting for €79m of the total with the remaining €40m going to Tourism Ireland to market Ireland overseas.

Mr McNally said with additional backing the Government’s goal of attracting 10m visitors and generating 50,000 jobs could be achieved five years ahead of target, by 2020 rather than 2025.

He also called for greater collaboration between industry partners to create a more unified approach that better serves regional tourism which, to date, has not benefitted from tourism to the same degree as some urban centres.

With the Government due to publish its tourism policy statement shortly, Mr McNally said greater collaboration would stand to the industry in the years ahead and ensure Irish tourism is well placed to grow and prosper.

Occupancy rates in the north-west, east, and Midlands lag 10% behind the national average of 64%, with the Shannon region 5% off.

The majority of hoteliers remain confident however, with 94% indicating a positive outlook for trading conditions over the next year.

Consequently, staffing levels should also increase as seven out of 10 hotels plan to expand their workforce in 2015.

Nationally, 85% of hoteliers are seeing a rise in business against a year ago, while three quarters have benefited from growth in advanced bookings.

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