Irish tourism bosses dealing with post-Brexit drop in UK visitors say Ireland will have to offer more action packed holidays
Ireland must offer more in the way of outdoor activities to keep attracting visitors from the UK rather than just relying on ‘the craic’, tourism bosses told Irish hoteliers at the week-end. The CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons told the Irish Hotels Federation conference in Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan that the number of British visitors to Ireland has been falling steadily June 2016’s Brexit referendum.
UK visits to Ireland in 2016, at 3.9m, were at their best ever since the economic crash a decade ago. But following the Brexit vote – and a fall in the value of sterling against the euro – the fall in visitor numbers to just 2.7m cost Ireland’s hospitality industry more than €60m based on an average per capita spend of €309, according to Tourism Ireland’s own figures.
“What we’re learning from our customers in Britain is that the things that Ireland is great at, partying, meeting the locals, having the craic, is terrific and we’re internationally renowned for that. But that’s not a primary motivator for a holiday.
“What people are looking for is to be active in nature in order to spend time with friends and loved ones, and they’re looking to get away from it all,” said Mr Gibbons.
He said Tourism Ireland also had to contend with a shrinking budget for marketing in the UK.
“Our share of voice or advertising revenue share used to be more than 40 per cent in Britain. It’s now down to single digits,” he said.
The agency recently spent €1.8m (£1.6m) in the UK launching ‘Wonders of the Wild Atlantic Way’ campaign here in the UK placing emphasis on how easy it is to get to Ireland from the UK.
“We’ve over 100 different routes coming from the UK into Ireland, the connectivity has never been better,” said Mr. Gibbons.
The CEO of fellow tourism agency Fáilte Ireland, Paul Kelly, repeated the message that outdoor activities will be a key part of the Irish offer to UK tourists because they do not depend on the weather.
“For people that go walking, the weather doesn’t really matter to them. They’re used to going walking in mountains. At least nine million people visit the Lake District in the UK every year. You get pretty wet there,” he said.
He said that following the success of the Wild Atlantic Way tourism marketing bosses want to develop the 500 km diagonal walk from Cork’s Beara Peninsula through the Irish Midlands to the counties of Leitrim and Cavan, the so-called Breifne District.
“It will take time and money to bring that up to an international standard in terms of what walkers will expect when they get here. We think it’s things like that will both extend the season and spread to the regions,” said Mr Kelly.
The situation is likely to exacerbate a two-speed growth in tourism with hotels in Dublin booming and having capacity problems, as opposed to hotels in the midlands-north that are struggling to fill bedrooms.
Elsewhere the Federation’s outgoing president Joe Dolan, who runs a hotel in Carrick on Shannon in Leitrim said the many coarse fishermen who traditionally come from Britain were almost non-existent this year.
Overall, a healthy increase in visitor numbers from mainland Europe and the US helped to offset the fall in UK visitor numbers, the conference heard.