THE SIGNIFICANT decline in the value of the Sterling and the increased economic uncertainty of Brexit has been blamed for the drop in British visitors to Ireland so far this year.
Donegal hoteliers have expressed their serious concern about the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which revealed that visitor numbers are down 6.2% from Britain which is Ireland’s largest market.
Paul Diver, Chair of the Donegal branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), said the recent recovery in tourism is now under threat as a result of Brexit.
Mr Diver, General Manager of Sandhouse Hotel, Rossnowlagh, said: “Tourism in Donegal in particular relies heavily on the UK market, so any fall off in numbers gives cause for serious concern. While the drop in visitors from Britain has been offset by increases in other markets, such as North America and the rest of Europe, we are seeing a significant slowdown in tourism growth so far this year.
“An additional concern is a weakening in visitor numbers from Northern Ireland that is also occurring. These are worrying trends both for the national tourism industry and our local economy.”
So far this year visitors from the rest of Europe are up 4.3% while visitors from North America are up 17.4%, resulting in an overall increase in overseas visitors of 3.1%.
Mr Diver noted that there has been an uplift in terms of tourism which has been felt on the ground in Donegal but said they cannot take this for granted. The 9% tourism VAT rate and the zero rate travel tax has led to growth in the industry, according to Mr Diver.
He said: “As the latest figures show, there is no denying that our industry faces significant risks associated with Brexit. Unfortunately regional tourism is likely to be hit hardest as the UK market has the widest regional seasonal spread of visitors. We are calling on the Government to take the necessary steps to protect Irish tourism and to avoid any changes in policy that would weaken our sector’s ability to deal with these risks.”
Mr Diver further called for the cuts to tourism marketing funding and product development during the downturn to be reversed.