This optimism is also helped by the fact that last year, for the first time since the downturn, the numbers employed in tourism rose with overseas revenue increasing by approximately €100m.
Fáilte Ireland Chairman Redmond O’Donoghue said, “Tourism is, by its very nature, an optimistic industry but this year there are many good reasons to expect a pick-up in overseas visitors. This is essential as historically our tourism sector has had an over-reliance on the home holiday market which is no longer in a position to guarantee increased revenues.
However, Fáilte Ireland stressed that targeted changes will need to be effected in our nearest and biggest overseas market – Great Britain.
Greater Value for Money
Overseas visitors are increasingly finding good value-for-money in Ireland, according to Fáilte Ireland Chief Executive Sean Quinn.
This trend is now apparent amongst visitors from all of Ireland’s main markets, helped by better offers from the trade and a weak €uro.
These factors will help drive improved market share in the year ahead.
For instance, research conducted among holidaymakers during the Summer months of 2012 indicates that the value-for-money that they experienced in the areas where they stayed has improved – with more than eight out of ten (84%) expressing a positive response to the value on offer in the area they visited.
Similarly, the latest indications from Fáilte Ireland’s own Survey of Overseas Travellers suggests that the improvement in satisfaction levels with value-for-money is apparent amongst visitors from all of Ireland’s main overseas markets.
In the Eurozone, satisfaction levels with value-for-money are highest amongst Italian and French visitors. During the last year the trend from the UK continued to improve as an increasing proportion of British visitors rated Ireland in positive terms with regard to value-for-money, up to 78% in 2012 (compared to 69% in 2011).
In all markets, the proportion of visitors rating value-for-money as poor dropped markedly between 2011 and 2012, again showing the strong improvement in this area.
Fáilte Ireland estimates that more than 6.3 million overseas visitors came to Ireland in 2012 which represents no change compared to 2011. Foreign earnings grew by an estimated 2% to €4 billion – an increase of €100 million and the first increase in foreign earnings since the recession began.
However, with Irish residents’ spending on domestic trips likely to be down 5% during 2012, total tourism revenue for the year is expected to be €5.7 billion, unchanged since 2011. Of this €5.7 billion in tourism revenue, €1.4 billion directly benefits the Exchequer through taxation.
Indications are that less than three million (2.7 million) British visitors came to Ireland in 2012, a decline of 3% compared to 2011. The British market currently accounts for over 40% of all overseas visitors to Ireland. There is some evidence that the UK outbound market was static in 2012 due to a number of factors including major events such as the Olympics, a weak economy and a strong drive to promote domestic tourism in the UK.
Three in 10 businesses said that rising costs were the main negative factor affecting their business over the last year. A sluggish domestic market, restricted cash flow and increased competition also caused concern in 2012.
Increasing sales and marketing efforts, discounting and implementing measures to reduce operating costs were the main ways businesses tackled these concerns. Around half of businesses introduced new products, services or packages to stimulate demand.
The latest estimate from the Central Statistics Office shows 2% growth in the numbers claiming that their principle employment was in accommodation or food service provision, with total employment at 123,100.
Commenting on the performance of tourism in 2012, Chairman Redmond O’Donoghue, emphasised, “I assumed the Chairmanship of Fáilte Ireland in 2008 and we’ve seen some very difficult times since then. However, I’m pleased to say that I am and I believe the Irish tourism industry is, more hopeful and optimistic than we’ve been for a very long time.”
Prospects for 2013
Over half of businesses anticipate that the domestic market will hold steady next year.
Anticipating the year ahead, Shaun Quinn emphasised, “The Gathering will mark 2013 as a unique year in Irish tourism and as we can see from some of the early indicators, the signs are there that it will deliver on its potential”.
As the biggest-ever tourism initiative undertaken by the state, The Gathering is likely to play a crucial part in tourism performance this year.
And as a grassroots initiative, The Gathering has generated terrific enthusiasm around the country with over 2,500 local gatherings already planned.
These will be accompanied by hundreds of special festivals and events spanning a variety of fields including culture, sport, food, music and heritage which will complement the calendar of home-grown Gatherings.
Already, there has been increased air access provided by carriers to cater for a growth in travel to Ireland. This includes an additional 4,000 seats to Ireland during the peak season and a 20% increase in direct capacity to Ireland from the US.
The Gathering has coloured much of the overseas reporting of Ireland as a destination this year too, including:
* Ireland being named Best Tourism Destination by Global Traveller magazine with The Gathering named as must-see festival for this year
* Lonely Planet naming Dublin in its Top five destinations for New Year’s Eve
* A high-profile listing in Fodor’s Travel Go List of the top 25 places to visit in 2013 cited The Gathering Ireland as one of the main reasons to visit here this year.