The annual report by the Irish Hotels Federation shows the 2016 average national room occupancy rate was the highest it has been in 11 years.
DUBLIN -- 26 February 2017: The average national room occupancy rate for Irish hotels and guesthouses was 72% in 2016 - the highest level over the past 11 years, driven largely by a record year for overseas visitor numbers. Speaking on the eve of the Irish Hotels Federation’s (IHF) 79th Annual Conference in Kilkenny, Chief Executive, Tim Fenn says that the hotel and guesthouse sector has benefited over the last twelve months from a robust tourism performance which delivered a 9.6% increase in overseas visitors.
Mr Fenn says that over 13,000 new jobs alone were created in the tourism and hospitality sector in 2016 bringing the total number of new jobs since 2011 to almost 50,000. This demonstrates the vital role the sector plays in Ireland’s on-going positive economic and employment growth. The tourism industry as a whole now supports approximately 220,000 jobs - equivalent to 11% of total employment in Ireland with almost 60,000 of these jobs in the hotels sector alone.
“2016 was a ground breaking year for Irish tourism overall where we saw all markets increasing their visitor numbers to Ireland. It has resulted in tourism returning to its long standing position as a key driver of economic growth throughout the country. The outlook for the sector is good for 2017. However, whilst there is great confidence and the numbers are strong, on the ground we are still seeing a concentration of visitors in the key urban areas and the growth of tourism, jobs and economic benefits are not reaching all regional and rural areas,” says Mr Fenn.
“We are making progress in growing market share thanks to effective market diversification. We are targeting higher value and higher spending markets to offset a potential downturn in the GB market due to Brexit and the sterling differential. Our visitor satisfaction ratings are highly positive reflecting our competitively priced and quality tourism product. Fáilte Ireland’s visitor research shows 95% of holidaymakers believe value for money is good or fair, which is a significant factor. It’s time to get the next piece of the puzzle in place and with our state tourism partners tackle regional spread so we have more powerful and attractive tourism products to entice our visitors to visit and stay in those parts of our country that are not gaining in the overall upturn.”
During 2016, overseas visitors grew by 769,000 to 8.8 million with increases across all key markets. North America improved on last year’s performance with visitors up by 17% to 1.51 million in 2016. Visitors from mainland Europe were up 8% to 3.11 million while visitors from Britain – Ireland’s main tourism market – were up 9% to 3.66 million.
“But we cannot be complacent given the rapidly changing political situation in some of our core overseas markets. The impact of sterling's collapse in our largest market, which accounts for 40% of our overseas visitors, has and continues to be a significant concern. The real impact of a potential deterioration in this market will tell a new story, we believe, in 2017 as advance bookings made pre-Brexit sustained this market in 2016. Deterioration in our GB visitors will hit our rural tourism hardest as this is the one market that does travel outside our city and tourist hotspots. We must continue to make significant strides in developing our tourism product and stay focused on providing great value whilst giving holidaymakers new and compelling reasons to come here.”
On a more positive note, Mr Fenn also points to the significant growth in air access into Ireland. “Recent growth in air access has been crucial. The new routes added in 2016 provided increased connectivity from new and existing markets to Irish airports delivering record-breaking passenger numbers. 2017 has got off to a great start too with Norwegian Air’s announcement that their new trans-Atlantic services to Dublin, Cork and Shannon which will begin in July. The new runway announced for Dublin Airport is also to be welcomed and demonstrates confidence and commitment to further growing our tourism success.”
Total revenue generated across all tourism-related businesses in 2016 was up 7.1% at €8.25 billion and accounted for 4% GNP. Of this, €6.49 billion was attributed to foreign exchange earnings from overseas visitors (up 8.6% on 2015) and €1.76 billion to home-grown tourism (up 2% on 2015).
The IHF stated that a pro-tourism supportive Government, which has maintained the 9% VAT rate on tourism services and the suspension of the Air Travel Tax, combined with a cost conscious sector seeking greater efficiencies to offer great value, have enabled Ireland to remain competitive.
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