HOTEL and guesthouse owners in Mayo and across the country are forecasting a good summer for the sector, according to the results of the latest industry survey undertaken by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).
The majority (70%) say business is up, compared to the same time last year, with increases in staycations and visitors from overseas markets, including North America and continental Europe.
Darren Madden, chair of the Mayo branch of the IHF, said that although the outlook is encouraging there is little room for complacency.
“Despite the upturn, not every tourism business is enjoying the same level of success and the hotel sector is still a number of years away from achieving sustainability in certain regional areas,” he said.
Nationally, almost half (49%) of hoteliers are seeing a drop in UK business while one in five say their advance bookings for the rest of the summer are down compared to last year.
According to the IHF survey, the domestic market remains buoyant with many (60%) hoteliers seeing an increase in home-grown business compared to this time last year. In terms of overseas visitors, six in ten (60%) hoteliers say business levels from the US are up while four in ten (41%) are seeing an increase from Germany.
Although the fall in UK visitors appears to have tapered off for now, after the significant fall in 2017 (down 5% year on year), only one in five (18%) hoteliers are seeing an increase.
With so many still experiencing a drop off in business, Mr. Madden says the UK market continues to be a significant concern.
Employment growth is set to continue in 2018 and Mr. Madden said the tourism industry is on track to creating 40,000 new jobs by 2021.
Improving business levels has also given hoteliers increased confidence, enabling them to invest more extensively in their businesses this year – from refurbishment to expansion, as well as investing in new facilities, services, employment and marketing – which feeds out into the wider economy.
Mr. Madden said that continued government supports such as the 9% VAT rate and zero travel tax have been hugely significant in underpinning the recovery of the tourism sector.
“The substantial fall in visitor numbers during 2017 from the UK, our largest market with the greatest seasonal and regional spread of visitors, served as a reminder of how vulnerable our tourism industry is to volatility in other economies,” he pointed out.
However, he acknowledged the focussed efforts of the state’s tourism bodies in new product development and market diversification and the positive impact of brands such as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin – a Breath of Fresh Air in providing new and unique value offerings to encourage more visitors.
Mr. Madden said that hotels, too, were also looking for ways to improve guests’ experiences, beyond investing in infrastructure.
“Increasingly guests want to holiday in destinations where they can really get to know the area in which they are staying. We are very fortunate as our rich tradition in the arts, history, music and sport across Mayo provides ample scope to offer immersive experiences,” he said.
The majority of hotels (80%) have plans to showcase and promote local produce, businesses and artists during 2018.
Corporate meetings and events are a significant source of business for many hoteliers (44%) with more than four in ten (44%) of these reporting an increase in business year on year.
Weddings continue to be important too, with over half saying it represents a significant part of their business. Three in ten say that business levels are up year on year while over half (54%) intend to invest in the wedding facilities and services that their venue offers.