The Prize Will Be Substantial if We Get Tourism Right, Says Hotels Chief


·        Target of 10 million annual overseas visitors achievable by 2020

·        Increased tourism marketing could generate additional €540 million in annual tax revenue

·        More co-ordinated approach required to attract high profile sporting events

·        Call to build on the over 23,000 hospitality jobs created since 2011


Tuesday, 25th March:  If Irish tourism interests plan correctly for growth, an additional 74,000 jobs by 2020, delegates at the Irish Hotels Federation’s (IHF) 76th Annual Conference heard today.  Stephen McNally, who was elected President of the IHF today, said that with appropriate supports, the industry could be well-positioned to achieve an ambitious target of 10 million overseas visitors per annum by the end of the decade – up from 7 million in 2013.


To deliver on this bold ambition would require a clearly focused tourism strategy backed by all industry stakeholders, cross Government policy, additional investment in tourism marketing, greater air access into the country and increased resources for tourism product development.


Building on over 23,300 new tourism jobs created since 2011 and the 7.2% growth in overseas visitors in 2013, Mr McNally said that an average annual growth in visitor numbers of 6% would generate an additional €540 million in annual tax revenue and bring total employment in tourism to over 270,000 up from the current 196,000 employed today.  These jobs would be spread across every corner of the country, creating sustainable indigenous local employment and contributing significantly to the export economy.


The IHF recommends three key priorities to ensure Irish tourism lives up to its full potential in terms of growth and employment:


1.           Commit to increased investment in tourism marketing and product development

2.           Establish a high level strategy with detailed targets in co-operation with relevant stakeholders cross industry and cross government

3.           Greater facilitation of industry representation on tourism agency boards.


Mr McNally states that the first step needs to be a full restoration of the Tourism Marketing Fund’s allocation by the Government which fell from €47 million in 2009 to €37 million this year. This reduction was introduced despite the enormous return marketing investment delivers to the Irish economy, generating €5.7 billion in tourism revenue last year alone. Mr McNally also called for the creation of an annual capital investment fund of €30 million to be ring-fenced for national tourism product development.


“Irish tourism needs to be more ambitious in the targets it sets itself. We need to be more aggressive incompeting for overseas holidaymakers and growing market share in our core markets such as North America and Europe,” says Mr McNally. “The priority now must be to increase the level of funding available to generate ‘must see’ momentum behind Brand Ireland, including additional investment in our natural product infrastructure and heritage attractions.


“As an island destination with no passing footfall, we have to do better and be smarter than our international competitors at marketing ourselves,” continues Mr McNally. “We’ve traditionally punched above our weight in terms of brand awareness abroad but we now face a real risk of falling behind as international competition intensifies and visitors’ needs evolve. We cannot afford to stand still. Increased direct expenditure on destination marketing is now essential if Ireland is to remain to the fore among choices being considered by potential visitors.”


Mr McNally stressed that increased marketing investment alone will not be enough, however. Tourism needs to be given a stronger role in informing and influencing national planning and development policy to ensure a more unified approach.  “This requires greater coordination between industry, state agencies, local authorities and community interests. If we get this right, it will be a game-changing moment.”


Initiatives such as The Wild Atlantic Way and the Great Western Greenway are excellent examples of how this can work. In particular, the Wild Atlantic Way – spanning 2,500km from Donegal to West Cork – offers enormous potential to re-energise tourism along our entire west coast, providing visitors with a great outdoor adventure and the ‘wild, magnificent Ireland’ of their dreams. It is already seeing significant levels of advance interest from markets such as Germany which will benefit tourism business from West Cork to the very north of Donegal.


Highlighting the important role that sport plays in tourism; Mr McNally called for more co-ordinated initiatives between the State and industry to attract international soccer, rugby and American football events to Ireland.  “High profile sporting events bolster our reputation as a welcoming people and a country with the infrastructure to deliver a quality product and memorable experiences – thereby creating an environment that is supportive of tourism. This an area we must capitalise on more.” 





Eoin Quinn / Siobhan Molloy                      Dublin office: 01 6798600

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