Poland – An emerging market of some potential

  • In terms of visitor numbers, Poland was Ireland’s third largest Continental European market in 2007, after Germany and France.  308,000 Polish visitors came here, an amazing jump from the 17,000 who came here 5 years ago.
  • Poland is almost 5 times the size of Ireland and has a population of 38 million.
  • The Polish state is over 1,000 years old.  In the 16th century Poland was one of the most powerful countries in Europe.  King Jan III Sobieski of Poland broke the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, ending the threat of a possible occupation of Western Europe.
  • In a series of agreements between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia and Austria partitioned Poland amongst themselves.  Poland regained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II.  It became a Soviet satellite state following the war, but its government was comparatively tolerant and progressive.
  • Labour turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union “Solidarity” that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency.  A “shock therapy” program during the early 1990’s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but Poland still faces the lingering challenges of high unemployment, underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure, and a poor rural underclass.  Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004, completing its transformation to a democratic market oriented country.
  • Poland is rich in natural mineral resources, including rock salt.  The Wieliczka salt mine contains an entire town below ground with sanatorium, theatre, church and café!  Everything from stairs to chandeliers is made from salt.
  • Poland has pursued a policy of economic liberalization since 1990 and today stands out as a success story among transition economies.  In 2007, GDP grew an estimated 6.5%, based on rising private consumption, a jump in corporate investment, and EU funds inflows, but GDP per capita is still much below the EU average.  However, Poland’s economic performance will improve further as the country addresses some of the many deficiencies in its business environment.  The Government has pledged to further reduce the budget deficit and to enact business-friendly reforms, reduce public sector spending growth, lower taxes, and accelerate privatisation.  They also plan to adapt the Euro as their currency, for now the zloty remains in place.
  • Famous Poles include the astronomer Copernicus, the composer of all those wonderful piano pieces Chopin, the scientist Marie Curie-Sklodowska, film maker Roman Polanski, and of course Pope John Paul II.
  • The major growth in Polish visitors to Ireland in the last 5 years has been driven by economic migration.  It is estimated that over 100,000 Polish citizens have come to work in Ireland over the past 5 years, and their contribution to the economy has been very considerable.  Many have settled in Ireland and so the growth in VFR (visiting friends and relatives) has been the principal driver of Polish visitor numbers.  Most of these visitors stay in rented accommodation or with friends, while just 2% overnight in hotels.  Spend while in Ireland would be well below the European average.
  • That having been said strong cultural and economic linkages are being developed and the Polish economy is getting more robust by the year.  As GDP per capita moves towards the EU average, the more affluent Polish visitors will have the potential to make a significant revenue contribution to Irish tourism in the future.
  • Connectivity is very good with a comprehensive range of services from Dublin to Warsaw with Aer Lingus, and from Dublin to Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice, Wroclaw, Lodz, Bydgoszcs, Poznan and Gdansk with Ryanair.  Wizzair operates services from Cork to Poznan, Warsaw, Katowice and Gdansk, and Ryanair operates services from Shannon to Wroclaw and Krakow.
  • Next up in our look at the top ten source markets – France.
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