IHF AGM and Conference 24-25th February 2020


  • 73%¹ average national room occupancy rate in 2019
  • Over 10.9 million overseas visits²
  • €9.2 billion³ in total tourism revenue generated
  • Over 90,000 new tourism jobs created since 2011


Galway, Monday, 24th February 2020: Ireland’s hotel and guesthouse sector has reported a mixed performance for 2019, against the backdrop of a significant fall in overseas visitor growth. Room occupancy nationally grew marginally during the year, finishing at 73% compared to 72% in 2018. However, the wide gap between the occupancy rates in Dublin and the rest of the country persists. Meanwhile, growth in overseas visitor numbers stalled in 2019, compared to an increase of 6.5% in 2018.  Speaking on the eve of the Irish Hotels Federation’s 82nd Annual Conference in Galway, Tim Fenn, Chief Executive, said Ireland continues to have a two-tier tourism industry with the regions bearing the brunt of the slowdown.

“Dublin continues to perform well with an average occupancy of 82% (down 2%) and this is on the back of an additional 1300 rooms coming on stream during the year. However, the average occupancy for hotels in the midlands is 53% (down 3%), while hotels along the Wild Atlantic Way finished the year with an average occupancy level of 65%. This is a worry, given the significant challenges already facing the sector and the vital role that tourism plays in the rural economy, where in many cases it is the only show in town,” he said.

“Irish tourism supports in excess of 260,000 jobs, 70% of which are outside Dublin. Last year it generated over €9.2 billion in revenue, accounting for almost 4% of GNP, – thereby supporting the local economies of every town and county. The industry has been warning against complacency as we knew the strong growth of recent years could not be taken for granted. The significant drop in overseas visitor growth last year has borne out these concerns.”

While acknowledging that the 10.9 million out-of-state visitors for 2019 was a strong performance for the industry, the IHF CEO described the flat growth for the year as worrying should it continue. “We haven’t regained the ground lost in UK visitor numbers caused by the uncertainty following the Brexit referendum in 2016 and the fall in the value of sterling. The UK market provides the widest geographical and seasonal spread of visitors so tourism businesses in the regions are being hit hardest. Many were just beginning to feel the recovery from the recession but now have to look at their investment plans.”

Mr Fenn said that the fall-off from Ireland’s largest source market has been offset to an extent by solid growth in the number of North American visitors, helped by the strong Dollar. They now represent some 21% of total overseas visitors to Ireland, up from 15% in 2012. However, he said that there is a critical need for increased market diversification.

“Visitor numbers from continental Europe have increased over the past eight years, representing over a third of our overseas visitor numbers.  Geographically they are our next closest source market after Britain and an important opportunity for future growth. Given the uncertainty over Brexit, there is a significant job to be done to ensure that Britain’s departure from the EU does not cause us to lose any of the ground we have made in this market.

Mr Fenn said that significant work had been done in recent years in the area of product development with brands such as the Wild Atlantic Way and, more recently, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. However, they must be more adequately resourced. “They can play a vital role in lengthening the tourism season in parts of the country which are currently lagging behind. During 2019 room occupancy in the midlands area dipped and if that continues it could have significant repercussions for the economies of the counties affected.”

“We compete internationally every day and every piece of business is hard won. Great progress has been made in recent years in terms of job creation and increasing revenue. However, overseas visitor growth has now stalled. Ireland’s tourism footprint is dependent on us doing better everywhere we can so that we are positioned to best respond to factors outside our control, such as a slowdown in international tourism growth. This requires shoring up the British market and diversifying further into other markets,” he concluded.



 Seán Lawless / Ger McCarthy                Dublin office: 01 6798600

Weber Shandwick                                    Mobile:  085 1167640 / 086 2333590


Editors notes

¹Source: Failte Ireland (estimate 2019)

² Source: CSO/NISRA/Fáilte Ireland (2019 estimate)

³ Source: CSO/NISRA/Fáilte Ireland includes carrier receipts (2019 estimate)


Tourism sector at a glance

  • 10.9 million out of state visitors
  • Tourism accounts for almost 4% of GNP
  • Total tourism revenue of €9.2 billion in 2019
  • Tourism industry has created over 90,000 new jobs since 2011. It now supports over 260,000 jobs, equivalent to 11% of total employment in Ireland with over 60,000 of these jobs in the hotel sector alone.
  • €7.25 billion in foreign exchange earnings
  • €1.96 billion in domestic tourism revenue in 2019
  • Total of 62,897 hotel and guesthouse bedrooms in Ireland (2019)



About the IHF
Founded in 1937, the Irish Hotels Federation is the national organisation of the hotel and guesthouse sector in Ireland. It represents almost 1,000 hotels and guesthouses nationwide, employing over 60,000 people and is a key stakeholder in the Irish tourism industry.


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