Figures to be presented to the ITIC conference in Athlone on Monday September 18 show the extent of changes to inbound tourism in post-pandemic Ireland.
Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, who is hosting the conference, is highlighting the swing in tourism spend towards home holidays that persists since the pandemic. Pre-pandemic the split was 44/56 in favour of the visitors, now it is 67/33 in favour of home holidays.
Recently released CSO inbound tourism data, the first suite of data on tourism performance since the pandemic, covers June 2023 and Quarter 2 of 2023.
The purpose of tourist visits to Ireland has undergone changes, as per the data. Prior to the pandemic, 51pc of visits were for holidays, 23pc for visiting friends and relatives, and 14pc for business purposes. However, it shifted to 40pc for holidays, 37pc for visiting friends and relatives, and only 9pc for business during the pandemic.
There have also been shifts in source markets. The USA maintained its share at 23pc, while Britain surprisingly increased by five points to reach 37pc. Europe, on the other hand, decreased by three points to 35pc, and the rest of the world dropped by three points to 5pc.
The bed situation has been disruptive, with 20pc of beds contracted to government agencies. Downstream tourism businesses have been severely affected, resulting in an estimated minimum annual cost of €1 billion to the tourism industry. The government acknowledges the importance of having a long-term plan, especially considering the welcome extended to refugees.
He points out that the figures are not directly comparable to 2019 due to changes in methodology regarding sampling and data collection. The hope is that monthly data going forward will be more comprehensive and timely, and a meeting with the CSO (Central Statistics Office) is necessary for clarity.
In addition, the ITIC (Irish Tourism Industry Confederation) will outline its wish list for Budget 2024, which includes the retention/restoration of the 9pc VAT rate to support Irish competitiveness, expanding and improving the business energy support scheme to mitigate rising business costs, addressing capacity challenges in accommodation, car hire, and infrastructure, investing in sustainability initiatives and supporting vulnerable enterprises, and enhancing employment permits to improve labour supply and unlock the surplus in the national training fund.