British tourist spend continues to fall
However while the CSO’s provisional estimates suggest that overseas spend in Q2 rose 2% from €1.48 billion to €1.51 billion, the spend from Great Britain – despite no change in the overall numbers visiting – fell 3% from €262million to €254 million, with overall H1 spend showing a 3.1% decline in British spend here of some €19 million for the first half of the year as Brexit uncertainty intensifies ahead of the October deadline.
This decrease is of major concern for traders in the tourism industry, particularly those in the drinks and hospitality industry who rely on the UK as their most important market, such as publicans, agreed the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland in a statement on the decline in UK tourists.
“Without their patronage, Irish pubs will be disproportionately affected,” it stated, “The drinks and hospitality industry delivers over €6 billion in tourism spend but with Brexit uncertainty this industry is facing very challenging times.”
The Vintners Federation of Ireland has stated that the latest CSO figures underline feedback from VFI publicans over the Summer that visitor numbers in tourist areas of the country are much weaker than in 2018.
The Q2 expenditure figures follow a 5.3% drop in the first quarter.
“British tourists are spending less when they visit Ireland which is particularly significant as they share a similar culture so usually spend more in pubs then American or European visitors,” pointed out VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “At a time when Brexit is causing obvious nervousness amongst UK travellers the fact we have the second-highest excise rate in Europe is severely hampering our competitiveness.
“Members are also having to absorb the impact of the increase in the hospitality VAT rate which increasingly looks like an ill-timed intervention by the government. We said removing the special VAT rate during the Brexit crisis would be a mistake, with the latest CSO figures proving our point.”
The DIGI has appealed to government “now more than ever” to ensure that Budget 2020 is “aligned with helping Ireland’s most vulnerable industries to protect jobs, create new business opportunities and ensure that we can survive competitively with our European counterparts.
“We urge government to ensure policy is designed to protect and stimulate this vulnerable industry. As such, we are calling for a reduction in excise tax in the upcoming budget.”