The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) has described the CSO figures released today for travel to Ireland in June as “bad”, with the performance from Britain as “dismal”.
For the month overall, visitors dropped by 15% with Continental Europe down 12%, North America down 7.5% and Ireland’s largest source market, Britain, down 20%. This follows on from the 23% drop in UK visitors in May.
Eamonn McKeon, ITIC Chief Executive, ominously warns however, that the retention of the €10 departure tax, the mooted reduction in overseas marketing investment as suggested in the McCarthy report, and lack of adequate credit facilities for businesses, are threats which could indefinitely delay recovery, and lead to the loss of many tourism enterprises. These are issues which are within Government’s capacity to address and ITIC is calling on the Government to act on all three immediately in an effort to stem the decline and reverse the downward spiral in visitor numbers. Lack of action will indefinitely delay recovery.
“Falls of the magnitude outlined in today’s report are seriously worrying, particularly from Ireland’s biggest source market Britain”, said McKeon. “For the first 6 months of this year”, he went on, “British visitor numbers are down over 300,000 or 15.5% on last year. This is the poorest half year performance since the “foot & mouth” in 2001.
“It has to be acknowledged”, he went on, “that outbound travel from Britain to every destination is down this year, but Ireland appears to be hit harder than many destinations. Continental European visitors for June fell by 12% (30,000 visitors), and for the year to date numbers are down by over 60,000 or 5% on last year.”
North America recorded a drop of 10,000 visitors or 7.5% in June, and for the first half of the year is down over 20,000 or 5% on last year. “Of Ireland’s main source markets the US was the first to enter recession and weakened travel demand followed that after a period of some months”, McKeon went on.
Now as the US economy appears finally to be moving back towards growth, albeit anaemic, the rate of decline in travel also appears to be softening. It is probable that economic recovery in Europe will lag that of the US by several months, ITIC believes, and so further disappointing visitor numbers can be expected for the remainder of 2009. It now seems probable that overseas visitor numbers to Ireland will decline this year by up to 1 million or 13%.
As an era of thrift has taken root with western consumers it also seems probable that associated revenue will drop by an even greater amount, in the region of 20%, or in excess of about €750 million, ITIC believes.
These are traumatic times for the tourism industry, McKeon says, and the short term objective for businesses is just to survive. “We will have reached the bottom in a few months from now, and then begins the process of recovery and growth. Despite the inevitable decline this year, over 6 million overseas visitors will arrive, a figure that was unimaginable 10 years ago, and a very strong base from which to recover and grow. The market causing most concern presently is the UK, and facing the certainty of higher taxes to start paying down the enormous debt levels run up in the economic stimulus programme, the UK consumer is likely to curtail expenditure on luxury items, particularly in the short term.”
ITIC is calling on the Government to remain supportive of tourism, as an indigenous sector, employing over 250,000, generating economic activity across Ireland, and with the capacity to prosper and grow again on the other side of this recession.
August 6th 2009