Fáilte Ireland is fighting back as Brexit uncertainty and a struggling sterling hammer the country’s tourism sector. It has launched ‘Get Brexit Ready’, a range of industry supports to help businesses at risk or already struggling.
The programme allows individual businesses to self-assess their exposures and risks and provides a range of interventions. The programme will be supported by a dedicated ‘Get Brexit Ready’ website to help individual businesses. The web portal will also include ‘Brexit-check’ – an online tool whereby an individual business can input their own data to determine how Brexit ready they are.
Speaking of the importance of tourism, Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly said: “This year we’re going to generate over €8bn in economic revenue to the economy, it’s going to support over a quarter of a million jobs and generate about €2bn in exchequer revenue.”
He said that while “one of the most important markets is Britain, there’s an awful lot of unknowns” due to its impending withdrawal from the European Union. Paul Kelly added: “Today is about what we in Fáilte Ireland can do with what we know now to prepare industry for the challenges. Overall our visitor numbers from Britain are down 6pc year to date and holidaymakers down 9pc.”
He estimated €88m in lost revenue, and 1,900 fewer jobs, either through loss or not being created by the downturn. The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation put the figure even higher recently – €100m – while Joe Dolan, President of the Irish Hotels Federation, told the Fáilte Ireland event that he believes even €100m is too conservative.
Mr Kelly warned of early signs that value for money has been slipping among European markets, including Germany, making Britain a more tempting destination. He said that it’s a double whammy as the dollar to sterling exchange rate means holidays in Britain are now around 20pc cheaper than three years ago for US tourists. “This means that Britain is a very cost-efficient competitior for us,” he warned.
Another issue is the slow pace of hotel builds in in-demand Dublin but he said Fáilte Ireland is looking to push other regions where the infrastructure and bed nights are there to cater for international tourists.
Fáilte Ireland’s Paul Keeley told the audience, which included hoteliers and other tourism groups, that: “About half of our overseas visits comes from the North and Britain. We know from our feedback we are under pressure with our competitiveness and compounded by issues like capacity. But it’s too big a market to throw in the towel.”
And he said the EU issue has been a wake-up call: “What Brexit has served to do is underscore something we already knew – Ireland Inc is overexposed to the British marketplace, and we need to accelerate our efforts to diversify our markets.”
He added that while Brexit is “very much a fog – the one thing that has become clear is the fog has lifted over the individual firm. We know that we’re losing business and we’re losing business right around the country and in every sector. We know that the currency fluctuation has made us less competitive and we know from chatting to businesses that they’re struggling with British visitors, and also with Northern visitors, and they’re struggling to hang onto contracts with pricing.
“We equally know the saving grace this year has been a very strong US performance but again currency has gone the wrong way of late so I don’t think we can continue to expect the kind of levels we’ve been enjoying out of the US into the future.”
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin told the audience: “Tourism businesses will need to diversify and reposition if they are to adapt to the evolving trading climate and I am confident that this suite of Fáilte Ireland initiatives will help them do that.”
The ‘Get Brexit Ready’ initiative will:
- Work with 1,000 businesses in an inital €1m package at first to assess their exposure to market uncertainty and their current competitiveness;
- Assist businesses to target best prospects in Britain and identify new opportunities there;
- Work with businesses which are over-exposed to the British market to diversify their trade to Europe, North America and growing markets like China;
- Provide the training and skills supports for tourism professionals to succeed in a Brexit environment.
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