The current indications are that 2010 will be another tough year for Irish tourism as many key markets continue to battle adverse economic conditions. The prospects for some markets, such as Germany and other key Continental European markets appear relatively favourable and growth is expected in 2010. Larger traditional markets including Britain and the United States will remain challenging, regardless of exchange rates. Home market prospects remain unclear although consumer research indicates further potential as Irish people cut back on foreign trips.
Overall, tourism operators are more optimistic about the coming season than they were a year ago. Heading into last year, only 20% of tourism operators expected business to either hold or improve. This year, 63% expect 2010 to be on a par or better than 2009. A majority expect employment levels in 2010 to be the same as 2009, while less than one in twenty acknowledge the prospect of any increase.
Successful steps taken by individual businesses in 2009 to cut costs substantially paid off and have put the industry on a stronger footing than a year ago. However, many businesses are now expressing deep concern about the continuing high cost of Local Authority charges, energy and insurance.
Fáilte Ireland’s CEO, Shaun Quinn, drawing on these indicators, pointed out -
“This time last year, as we surveyed the tourism landscape, the outlook amongst tourism operators was universally bleak, prompting a widespread belief that 2009 was all about survival. This year the tectonic plates of business sentiment are shifting somewhat. Now operators are expressing greater confidence about the immediate future and at the very least are expecting greater stability upon which to begin recovering market share.
“That said, 2010 will still be a year of tough trading. Pressure on revenues remains intense and while many operators have taken tough steps to reduce those costs within their control, the continuing high level of local authority charges, energy costs and to a lesser extent restrictive pay structures are collectively placing an undue burden on the industry.
“Hopefully, this year will be the one where we turn the corner. However, there is no room for complacency and Fáilte Ireland will be stepping up its efforts – from helping to sustain individual businesses to stimulating consumer demand – to develop Irish tourism to reach its full potential”.
Priorities for 2010
This year Fáilte Ireland will focus its investment support on three core areas:
- Supporting key tourism businesses to increase their international customer base, better manage their cost base, improving overall performance and sustaining employment levels.
- Investing over €20 million under its capital investment programme to improve and broaden the appeal Ireland’s portfolio of tourist attractions, activities and tourism related infrastructure. Investment in business, sporting and cultural events will also be increased as all offer good prospects for tourism growth in 2010.
- Launch its biggest ever home holiday marketing programme,,as a central plank in its strategy to increase the home market share of the overall Irish leisure break market. The domestic market now accounts for 65% of business in the intensely competitive hotel sector. Research indicates that Irish people are less likely to travel abroad in the current climate, presenting an opportunity for the home breaks market this year. A particularly notable issue which has come through strongly in Fáilte Ireland research is that Irish people now see Ireland as a good value destination, and consumers are acknowledging the excellent offers and value for money now available in the market.
Mr Quinn welcomed this development:
“The aggressive pricing and greater value in Irish tourism has percolated through to the home audience. Irish people are now seeing the home holiday and, particularly, the domestic short break as an attractive alternative to the hassle of travelling abroad.”
The Year Ahead
Summing up, the Chairman of Fáilte Ireland, Mr O’Donoghue emphasised that –
“Although the year ahead will be tough, there are some comforting signs. I am particularly encouraged by the signals from the front lines of tourism where business sentiment is now tilting towards the current downturn levelling off in 2010.
“Furthermore, recent research is indicating that more and more Irish people will be staying at home this year – providing greater potential for the home holiday market.
“This puts it up to us in Fáilte Ireland and the tourism industry to fulfil that potential. There is no guarantee that those who stay at home will holiday at home and it is up to ourselves and the industry to provide the necessary incentives. In 2010, we will be exploiting every opportunity to showcase all that Ireland has to offer and highlighting the great value out there. ”