Call for greater Government focus on development of rural Ireland

IHF AGM and Conference 4-5th March



Killarney, 4th March 2019             Regional hotels and guesthouses are facing serious challenges despite record tourism numbers last year, according to the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). With regional room occupancy rates down year on year, IHF Chief Executive Tim Fenn warned against complacency and called for a greater Government focus on the development of rural Ireland.  


Speaking ahead of the IHF’s 81st Annual Conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, Mr Fenn said that national tourism performance masks serious challenges facing the industry at a time of heightened risks including uncertainty surrounding Brexit. In 2018, the average national room occupancy rate for hotels dropped to 72%, compared to 74% the previous year. While Dublin performed strongly with an average occupancy of 84% (up 1%), the rest of the country lags significantly behind with an average occupancy rate of 66% (down 2%).


“We continue to have a two-tiered tourism industry, which Government policy is failing to address. While there has been good growth overall in recent years, not every tourism business or part of the country has enjoyed the same level of success. There are many areas where tourism remains very seasonal and hospitality businesses struggle to break even during off-peak periods. Tourism businesses in these areas still have a substantial amount of lost ground to make up since the downturn.”


“They can ill afford to take another economic hit, particularly in light of increased uncertainties around Brexit. Regional businesses are already bearing the brunt of the hike in tourism VAT with €300m in additional taxes being taken from the rural economy each year. Ireland is already a high-cost location for doing business and we now have the fifth highest tourism VAT rate in Europe which puts regional tourism at a further disadvantage. This is seriously undermining the capacity of regional hotels and other tourism businesses to invest in future growth.”


“There is now a serious risk that rural Ireland will be left behind when the Government’s focus should be on creating the right environment to sustain growth across the entire country,” added Mr Fenn. “What is sometimes lost in discussions about the economy is that tourism growth is one of the most effective ways to spread employment opportunities and prosperity across the regions.”


Mr Fenn acknowledged progress made in recent years in new product development and market diversification, including campaigns targeting higher spending visitors. “Initiatives such as The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands offer significant potential for regional tourism growth and these initiatives must be more adequately resourced. They can play a vital role in lengthening the tourism season in parts of the country that currently lag behind. This is of critical important to local economies where tourism is the only show in town.” he said.

“Tourism generates over €9.4 billion in revenue for the economy and now supports over 260,000 jobs throughout the country, 70% of which are outside Dublin. Growth in tourism achieved in recent years illustrates the economic and job creating potential of our industry at a national and local level and, particularly, the vital role it plays in addressing the rural imbalance in economic growth and development.”






Ger McCarthy / Seán Lawless                                    Dublin office: 01 6798600

Weber Shandwick                                                        Mobile: 086 233 3590 / 085 11 676 40




Notes to Editor:


Tourism sector at a glance

  • 10.97 million overseas visitors
  • Tourism accounts for almost 4% GNP
  • Total tourism revenue of €9.42 billion in 2018
  • Tourism industry has created over 94,000 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 hotels sector alone
  • €7.47 billion in foreign exchange earnings
  • €1.95 billion in domestic tourism revenue in 2018
  • 827 Hotels (824 in 2017) and 59,609 Hotel bedrooms (58,425 in 2017)
  • 170 Guesthouses (unchanged) and 2,260 Guesthouse bedrooms (2,450 in 2017)
  • Total of 61,865 hotel and guesthouse bedrooms in Ireland (60,875 in 2017)


About the IHF

Founded in 1937, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) 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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