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Mayo hoteliers warn against complacency as sterling falls


CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC Michael Lennon, Chairperson of Mayo IHF.

Michael Duffy

The majority of hoteliers and guest house owners in Mayo and across the country are reporting continued growth in business compared to last year, according to the latest quarterly barometer from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). However, the survey also shows that the industry is feeling the effects of the fall in the value of Sterling with one in three hoteliers (36 percent) saying that it has negatively impacted their business. This comes as the latest figures from the CSO show that while visitors from Great Britain are up nine percent year on year, the rate of growth has slowed.  
The UK market accounts for approximately 40 percent of overseas visitors, making it Ireland’s largest source of inbound tourists, which highlights the potential exposure of Mayo’s tourism industry.
The growth in business levels from the USA, meanwhile, shows no signs of waning. Visitor numbers from North America are up by 15 percent year to date, with two thirds of hoteliers (66 percent) reporting an increase in business levels from this market.  Thirty eight percent (38 percent) of hotels and guesthouses are also seeing an increase in visitors from Germany while 30 percent are benefiting from an increase in visitors from France. Visitor numbers from the rest of Europe are up by 11 percent. Domestic tourism is also still on the increase.  Seven out of ten hoteliers (71 percent) are reporting that business levels are up compared to last year as consumer sentiment at home continues to improve. 

Good news
Michael Lennon, Chairperson of the Mayo Branch of the IHF said visitor numbers are up overall, which is good news.
“Tourism now supports 5,200 jobs in Mayo and contributes some €190 million to the local economy annually. However the impact from the fall in Sterling’s value and the slowdown in growth are worrying and leave no room for complacency. We are doing our best to maintain competitiveness through constant monitoring of costs so that we continue to deliver good value to all visitors and especially visitors from the UK. The pro-tourism measures of the Government are vital too and the latest barometer shows just how critical the Government’s recent decision to retain the nine percent VAT rate was to the industry that is so price-sensitive and vulnerable to external economic shocks.”  
However, Mr Lennon said that more needs to be done.
“There is an urgent requirement for greater investment in marketing and product development, for example, to help mitigate the potential impact of Brexit and safeguard the important contribution which tourism makes to every town and village in Mayo. Time and time again, Irish tourism has shown itself to be an excellent investment with every euro spent in destination marketing by the state resulting in €34 being spent by visitors in the country.”
While acknowledging that significant work has already been undertaken in this area, Mr Lennon said that more targeted investment is needed for the recovery in tourism to be sustained, a view shared by more than four in ten (43 percent) hoteliers who believe that more needs to be done in the development of regional tourism products.

Further investment
“Further investment is needed, for example, to facilitate the full development of area specific initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Ireland’s Lakelands. “We also need to see an increase in marketing both at home and abroad to ensure our product offering remains fresh and compelling both to attract new visitors and encourage repeat visits,” he said.
Mr Lennon said that hoteliers recognised that they had a valuable contribution to make in this area also. The latest barometer shows that two thirds of hoteliers (67 percent) plan to increase their own marketing spend over the next 12 months while nine out of ten hoteliers (91 percent) indicated that they intend to invest in refurbishment and increased capital expenditure within the next year.