June results reflect market reality

  • The Central Statistics Office (CSO) overseas travel results for the month of June, issued today, show the difficulties being faced by the industry in the main overseas markets.
  • There is some good news, in that the relatively stable performance of the earlier months this year means that in the 6 months to the end of June, overseas visitor numbers are 2.6% ahead of the same period last year.
  • And while that is a stronger position than is the case with several European destinations, it is a position that is unlikely to be maintained as the year progresses.
  • For the month of June alone, overseas visitor numbers were down just over 3% on last year.  But two of Ireland’s main markets fared less well than that, with visitor numbers from North America down 10% and from Britain down just over 7%. Continental Europe was up almost 4%.
  • It is just one month of course, and one swallow does not a summer make.  But just as those swallows flew low in June in expectation of “soft” weather, the question is, are the June CSO results a harbinger of things to come?
  • Perhaps more so than any other business, travel and tourism is reliant upon consumer confidence and robust discretionary spending.  These commodities are presently in short supply in our main markets.  But they will return, and with them renewed growth in international travel.
  • In the meantime, even if growth may have temporarily migrated, there is still much business to be won.  Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland are working with the industry, the carriers, and operators in each market to exploit every business opportunity.
  • While consumer confidence and discretionary spending remain weak, the competition for every visitor becomes more intense.  For that reason it is critical that Government investment in the Agency’s marketing programmes is maintained.  Ireland must at the very least maintain market share during the more difficult period which the June figures have heralded.
  • Last year the tourism industry contributed almost €3 billion in tax revenue to the Exchequer through expenditure on tourism-related goods and services and income tax earned from over one quarter of a million tourism related jobs.  ITIC believes that if tourism is to prosper in the present more difficult economic climate, the Government must maintain its strong commitment to investment in destination marketing, infrastructure, product development and training.  If it does, Ireland will again return more quickly to tourism growth, than will competitor destinations.
  • And what of the Irish travelling abroad in June?  Well the love affair continues, even if the passion is slightly dampened.  Trips were up less than 1%, a far cry from the almost 13% growth experienced in June ’07 over June ’06.  Irish trips abroad for the first 6 months of this year were 5% ahead of last year.  But that’s a long way from the 14.2% growth in the first half of last year vs. 2006.
  • Information on domestic trips will not be available for a few more weeks, but it is pretty certain to follow a similar trend, namely much slower growth than in previous years.  But some growth nonetheless.
  • It’s timely and appropriate that the Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism will shortly be announcing details of a midterm review of the New Horizons for Irish Tourism programme.  It has been a good period of growth for Irish tourism, but the near term future will be much more demanding.
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