New tourism direction needed

Off the fence
New tourism direction needed


Fergal Ryan

MAYO hoteliers this week welcomed the launch of a major turnaround plan for tourism by a national coalition of business interests led by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) and the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) and including, IBEC, Chambers Ireland and the IFA.
The report, ‘Tourism Opportunity – driving economic renewal’, identifies the urgent action required to reverse the collapse in overseas demand over the past two years and sets out how tourism can play a significant role in Ireland’s economic recovery as one of Ireland’s top indigenous industries.
This industry-led plan proposes a bold series of actions, which if followed, can by 2015 sustain 180,000 jobs and create over 20,000 new jobs whilst generating some €6.2 billion revenue for the economy.  But we must be bold and set targets that are well beyond the consensus growth rates forecast for tourism within Europe over the coming years.
Like the rest of the country, Mayo has experienced a dramatic decline in visitor numbers in recent years and there are few signs that market conditions will improve in the absence of radical intervention. By implementing the actions outlined today, tourism can play its role as a substantial driver of recovery in the local economy backed up by more creative and targeted marketing in our key markets such as Britain, Europe and North America.
There is a need for a greater utilisation of Ireland’s available world class resources, such as Ireland West Airport Knock. We need to develop international routes to markets such as Germany and France direct into the west, which is their favoured location in Ireland. Opportunities also exist to promote Knock shrine and the various pilgrimage heritage sites around Mayo and the western region in line with the likes of Lourdes.
We need to recover Ireland’s damaged reputation around the world with an intensive, co-ordinated campaign to promote brand Ireland, involving the Government, state agencies, high profile personalities from business, the arts and sports
We need to re-launch Ireland as a tourism destination by orking in conjunction with other sectors of the economy to develop a new brand Ireland identity to boost the country’s image and awareness abroad
We also need to capitalise on quality and value as Ireland regains competitiveness. The industry is offering good value for money to today’s more value-conscious customer. Restoring competitiveness already underway will require that the cost burden of public sector charges be reduced and the review of employment agreements are urgently finalised.
Full details of the Plan are available at www.tourismopportunity.ie

Fergal Ryan is Chairman of the Mayo Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation.