Thirty hotels shut down as tourist spend falls by €1.1bn
FOREIGN visitors last year spent almost €1bn less than in 2008 and 30 hotels were forced to shut their doors in a bleak year for Irish tourism.
British tourists were put off visiting the country because the weakness of sterling made it simply too expensive.
In a bleak assessment of 2008, Failte Ireland said tourist spending was back down to 2004 levels and there was a 12pc drop in overseas visitors.
It revealed that 900,000 fewer people holidayed in Ireland than in 2008, and Irish people took fewer home breaks, resulting in total holiday spending falling by 17pc, from €6.3bn to €5.2bn. Of that €1.1bn fall, €900m was accounted for by foreign visitors spending less.
High-profile hotel casualties included the Glasshouse Hotel, Tallaght, Dublin; Tallaght Cross Hotel, Dublin; and Baltimore Harbour Hotel in Cork.
Failte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn claimed that 63pc of businesses expected 2010 to be on a par with or better than 2009.
"Now operators are expressing greater confidence about the immediate future and at the very least are expecting greater stability upon which to begin recovering market share," he said.
There were positive developments coming on stream this year, which would have an immense impact on future tourism, said Failte Ireland chair-man Redmond O'Donoghue.
In particular, the opening of the full motorway network linking Dublin to other cities would be beneficial in the long-term, particularly for delivering tourists outside the capital.
The opening of the new Lansdowne Road stadium, the Aviva Stadium, and the National Convention Centre in Dublin, which had already secured had a significant number of bookings ahead of its opening in August, would also boost tourism, Mr O'Donoghue said.
"I don't believe we completely blew it in the boom, because we made these investments."
Fine Gael claimed the €10 tourist tax was to blame. "Unfortunately ... government policy is a major cause of the collapse with the Tourism Minister refusing to abolish the travel tax despite widespread calls for him to do so," said tourism spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell.
Tourism was one of the few industries to benefit in the Budget, with its capital funding allocation trebled to €21m to prepare it for the upturn.
Failte Ireland said they hoped to have the new subsidised travel scheme for European pensioners, announced in the Budget, up and running by St Patrick's Day to give a boost to the industry from the increasingly lucrative grey market.