Q4 offered little relief

The Central Statistics Office recently issued their findings for the fourth quarter of 2009. While the trends were well known when figures for the full year are collated, it concludes a full year performance which the industry will wish to put behind it, and with no fond memories.

It’s Official – Ireland welcomed 840,000 fewer visitors in 2009
Provisional results for 2009¹ show a 12% drop in visitors, no surprise based on the experience throughout the industry over the past year. Total income from overseas tourism was down 19% to just under €3.9 billion².

All markets show a decline, with the sharpest drop from Britain
Britain, our largest source market, fared least well with a 15% drop in visitors coming here, down to 2,984,000 from 3,518,000 the previous year – a loss of over half a million visitors (-534,000).

Visitors from mainland Europe were down by 9% to 2,288,000, approximately 220,000 fewer visits.

North America, relatively speaking, was the best performing market with only a 5% drop from 922,000 to 877,000 visitors.

Visitors from ‘Other Areas’, a relatively small market, dropped 11% to 300,000.

Fewer Holiday and Business visitors
Holiday visits dropped from 3.5 million to 2.9 million, an 18% decline or 642,000 fewer visitors than in 2008. Just under half of all visits are for holiday or leisure reasons, although worryingly the share appears to have slipped from 48% in 2008 to 45% last year.

The next largest group are those for whom the primary purpose is to see friends and relatives (VFR). This group increased marginally (+3%) last year to account for a total of 2.25 million visits.

Business visits showed the sharpest drop with a 22% year on year decline, to 861,000 visits from 1.1 million the previous year.

Approximately 454,000 visits were for ‘other reasons’, a drop of 5%.

Hotels, Guesthouses and B&Bs hardest hit in downturn
Visitors spent 6.9 million fewer bednights in the country in 2009 compared to the year before, a 12% decline to 52.4 million overnights. While the top line average length of stay remained unchanged at 8.1 nights, more nights were spent in homes of friends and relatives while demand for all categories of ‘paid for’ accommodation, with the exception of camping and caravanning, was down on the previous year. The overall results suggest a pattern of trading down and with rented accommodation gaining share in the European and North American markets, while the popularity of staying with friends and relatives increased across all markets, other than mainland Europe.

After several years of continuous growth from overseas demand, hotel bednights were down 20%, a loss of 2.7 million bednights compared to a year earlier, from 13.6 million to 10.9 million.

Guesthouses and B&Bs also saw demand drop by 20% to 4.3 million bednights, while rented accommodation demand fell by 17% to an estimated 10.3 million bednights. The fall-off in demand for rented accommodation from Britain appears to have been especially severe, with a decline of over a third (-37%) in bednights in this category.

The fall-off in demand for hotels was most marked from Britain and mainland Europe – 23% fewer bednights from each market, while Guesthouses and B&Bs saw demand from Britain and mainland Europe drop by 23% and 15% respectively.

Bednights from overseas visitors in hostels were down 9% to 1.55 million, while bucking the trend was the camping and caravan sector where estimated bednights increased by 20% to 0.9 million.

Stays in private homes of friends and relatives increased by 4% to account for an estimated 18.5 million bednights, while ‘other accommodation’ declined by 22% to 5.9 million. The number of bednights from North America spent in private homes appears to have increased by 22%.

Overall the share of bednights in the formal guest accommodation sectors, excluding homes of friends and relatives and ‘other’ dropped to 53% from 57% the previous year – which must be a cause for concern.

The overall length of stay remained unchanged from the previous year at 8.1 nights. However, the average length of stay by mainland European decreased from 11.4 to 10.6 nights while the average length of stay by British visitors increased from 4.8 to 5.1 nights – the latter reflecting the changes in the composition of demand from Britain including the increase in VFR visitor and bednight volumes.

An anatomy of British market demand in 2009
2009 was the third successive year of decline in the overall number of visitors from Ireland’s No.1 source market, and the second year of decline in British holiday/leisure visitors. The declines are all the more significant given the relative volume of demand and some apparent shifts in the composition of the demand. Visitors from Britain have declined from 3.75 million in 2006.

Of the 2.9 million visitors last year from Britain, 1.3 million were VFRs, almost 1.1 million were on holiday, and 476,000 were business trips.

Holiday demand last year was 30% lower than in 2008 and 37% down on 2007. Business trips were down 19%, while VFR visits were up 3%.

Aggregate bednights from the British market were down 11% in 2009 from a year earlier to 15.2 million and 15% off the peak in 2006, buoyed in part by the level of VFR and in previous years by the business market.

13% drop in Day Visits in 2009
Same day visits appear to have fallen by 13% to 479,000, although the season pattern shows a sharp drop of over one third in the fourth quarter compared to a 4% decline over the first 9 months.

Of the total, 42% of day trips were for business, with 30% for leisure and almost 20% for VFR. Not surprisingly, over half (57%) were trips from Britain, with the majority (58%) for business.

Latest news –Overseas arrivals in January 2010 down 26%³
Trips to Ireland by overseas residents for all reasons including day trips in January 2010 were down 26% to 313,800 compared to a year earlier, an overall decrease of 110,400. Visits from Britain were down by 31.6% to 142,400 while trips to Ireland by residents of other Europe and North America decreased by 29.7% and 2.2% respectively.

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¹Source: CSO Tourism & Travel Q4 2009, published March 26, 2010. CSO Annual results for 2009 can be expected in May 2010.
²Expenditure (excluding international fares) plus passenger fare receipts of Irish carriers from all visitors (stay over and day visitors) to Ireland.
³Source: CSO Overseas Travel, January 2010 (published April 01, 2010).

April 7th 2010

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