HOTELS CHIEF SLAMS LACK OF TOURISM POLICY INSIGHTS
Absence of sufficiently detailed and robust visitor data puts Irish tourism at a significant competitive disadvantage
· Lack of tourism insights and data impeding success of €5.7 billion industry
· 6 out of 10 hoteliers unhappy with quality of national tourism statistics
· Ireland has more national data on movement of its cows than visitors
Monday 4th March 2013: Some six out of 10 (61%) hotels and guesthouses have expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of Irish tourism statistics provided by the Central Statistics Office according to an industry survey carried out by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). Speaking on the eve of the Irish Hotels Federation’s 75th Annual Conference, Michael Vaughan, President of the IHF, says that tourism businesses are frustrated at the lack of information and statistics available on the travel patterns of visitors to Ireland.
Mr Vaughan states that the absence of sufficiently detailed and robust data means Irish tourism is at a significant competitive disadvantage in not having the necessary tools to target its marketing efforts to best effect and learn from the mistakes of promotional activities that may not have worked. He warns that, without the relevant insights into what drives and shapes Irish tourism, this vital sector of the economy will not live up to its full potential as an engine of growth and job creation.
More detailed statistics based on larger sample sizes, examining a wider range of tourism trends would allow the industry to:
1. Market Ireland more effectively as a holiday destination
2. Achieve a greater regional spread of visitors
3. Roll out more focused campaigns targetting existing and emerging markets
4. Win a larger share of the lucrative business tourism market
“Tourism marketing budgets are finite both for individual tourism businesses and for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, which have a combined annual budget of over €100 million,” states Mr Vaughan. “We need to ensure all marketing resources are deployed as effectively as possible and delivering maximum return on investment. Not only would more detailed statistics - particularly on a regional level - provide stronger marketing insights, they would enable more strategic planning around product development and investment.”
Mr Vaughan states that it is incredulous that a €6 billion sector of the Irish economy employing 11 per cent of total employment in the country does not have access to the required tools to adequately measure its performance on a national and regional basis.
“We’ve raised our concerns with the Government already but progress has been slow to date and really misses the bigger picture. Without the necessary resources and tools for proper planning, we will continue to lack the in-depth insights that would enable us to transform the way we market Ireland both at home and abroad. Until then we’re feeling around in the dark to a large extent,” says Mr Vaughan. “So for example, the final regional tourism figures for 2011 have only just become available to us and even these lack any detailed insights into the length of visitors’ stay, their reasons for visiting certain parts of the country over others, the activities and events that attract them to Ireland and the quality of their holiday experience.”
With unemployment at over 14% nationally, Mr Vaughan argues that the labour-intensive tourism sector has an as-of-yet untapped potential to play an even more important role in job creation. He states that part of the problem is that tourism does not receive the prominence it should at a national level, the way the agriculture sector does – due largely to a dearth of statistical insights available.
“Government economic officials need data in the national accounts for any decision-making policies. Because we don’t know exactly what our tourism sector comprises of and how it contributes to the economy – such as how much it accounts for in total retail spend (petrol, shopping etc), services and the leisure industry – a total picture of the industry’s value is not available and therefore not included in our national fiscal accounts in the same way agriculture and other sectors are.”
“The last year we had such an insight was in 2004 and it cost in the region of €60,000 to cover the additional work. On that occasion the Tourism Department at University of Limerick produced what is termed the Tourism Satellite Account. This is one example of the type of information that needs to be produced on an ongoing basis as part of our national tourism statistical analysis.”
“Irish tourism brings in over €5.7 billion a year in revenue but appears not to be worthy of the same degree of analysis or investment as that which supports our agricultural sector. We know more about the travel patterns of the 6.8 million cows on the island than we do about the 6.5 million visitors to our shores each year. It is shocking how little we know about its performance,” he concludes.
Siobhan Molloy/Eoin Quinn Tel: 01 6760168
Weber Shandwick PR Mob: 086 817 50 66/087 233 2191
Note: The IHF represents almost 900 hotels and guesthouses throughout the country, which in turn employ 54,000 people. Ireland’s wider tourism industry provides an estimated 196,000 jobs (directly and indirectly), equivalent to 11 per cent of total employment in the country.