Significant Drop in Business Sentiment, According to IHF Industry Barometer


  • Majority of hotels reporting increase in business levels year on year
  • Fall in UK and NI visitors numbers masked by increases in other markets
  • Nine out of ten hotels concerned about Brexit
  • Government measures needed to mitigate risks to tourism growth

Monday, 17th December 2018: Despite another year of growth in 2018, business sentiment among hotels has dropped significantly according to the latest hotel barometer from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). Less than half of hotels (49%) now report a positive outlook for the next 12 months compared with the 82% who had a positive outlook this time last year. Key concerns for the sector include the escalating risk and uncertainty around Brexit, reduced visitors numbers from the UK and the increasing costs of doing business.

While 73% of hotels have seen some increase in overall business levels this year, growth from North America and Europe has masked the poor performance of the UK market with visitors still down 5% on 2016 due to persistently weak performance following the referendum. This is having a direct impact on hotels throughout the country with 52% reporting a drop in business from Great Britain this year while 40% have seen a drop in business from Northern Ireland. The vast majority of hotels (91%) now express concern about the impact of Brexit on their business over the next 12 months.

IHF President Michael Lennon states: “We are increasingly concerned about the direction that Brexit is taking and the impact that heightened uncertainty is having on our sector. A disruptive Brexit would have enormous economic repercussions which would be felt directly by tourism businesses given our heavy reliance on the UK market.”

Mr Lennon states that, even if a deal is eventually reached, any prolonged uncertainty in the coming months could result in a further erosion of consumer sentiment. He says: “The impact would be more pronounced in regions with greater exposure to the UK market, particularly those outside the main tourism hotspots. These regions have lagged behind in recent years and can least afford the economic hit."

“The consistent growth achieved over the last seven years in a dynamic and competitive international market cannot be taken for granted. We are particularly concerned with the Government’s change in approach to tourism and the lack of recognition of the important role it plays as an engine of economic growth and regional balance. With the Brexit storm gathering, relentless increases in the cost of doing business, international trade wars, a slowdown in European growth and the increase in tourism VAT, there is little surprise in the drop in business sentiment.  Many of our members are now re-examining their future investment strategies and taking a more cautious approach to planning for next year and beyond.”

“The Government must mitigate Brexit related risks to tourism and facilitate the continued growth of an industry that supports approximately 266,000 jobs, over 70% of which are outside Dublin. There are aspects of the economic environment and Brexit that are largely outside our control but it is imperative that we mitigate the risks and potential damage where we do have some control over our destiny. We have to retain our competitiveness and this means taking decisive action on the issues that are affecting the cost of doing business.”

According to Mr. Lennon, however, only one in five hoteliers believe that the Government is doing enough to tackle the high cost of doing business in Ireland. Some 76% of hotels have seen further increases in insurance costs this year. Of these, the average increase in premiums was 15%. This is in addition to substantial increases in recent years. Mr Lennon states that insurance costs have reached an unsustainable level, averaging €1,150 per room annually.

He called on the Government to introduce a Tourism Satellite Account within the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to provide a full analysis of the economic activity in the Tourism industry and how much it contributes to each county throughout the country. “It will also provide independent verification to assist those who rely on the National Accounts, where tourism is not identified, to inform their deliberations on taxation and economic policy,” he said.

On a brighter note, Christmas events and parties remain a significant part of the business for more than half of the hoteliers surveyed (52%). Of those, almost half (47%) report an increase in business this festive season compared to last year with over a third (36%) of those surveyed taking on additional staff for the Christmas period.

Breakdown across markets compared to last year:

  • Domestic market: 71% of hotels and guesthouses are reporting an increase in visitor numbers from across Ireland during 2018 with 17% seeing no change and 12% noting a decrease. 
  • Britain: Only 18% are noting an increase in visitor numbers from Britain, with 31% seeing no change, and 51% seeing a decrease.  
  • United States: 66% of premises are noting an increase, while 26% have seen no change and 8% noting a decrease.      
  • Germany: 45% of hotels and guesthouses are reporting an increase, with 46%% saying they have seen no change and 9% seeing a decrease. 
  • France: 32% of hotels and guesthouses are noting an increase, with 53% saying they have seen no change and 15% seeing a decrease.

Irish Tourism – Top line facts

  • Tourism supports approx. 266,000 jobs nationally
  • Tourism created over 94,000 new jobs since 2011
  • Ireland expects  9.6 m overseas visitors in 2018
  • Great Britain and NI account for 46% of out of state visitors
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