Monday 25 September 2017

Brexit upheaval puts halt to Gathering No 2

Sterling weakness and uncertainty in UK put plan to woo diaspora on hold

Sterling is currently weak against the Euro (stock photo)
Sterling is currently weak against the Euro (stock photo)
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

A 'Gathering No 2' targeting the Irish diaspora has been put on hold due to currency complications caused by Brexit, the Sunday Independent has learned.

One of the main problems is the weakness of sterling against the euro.

It comes as recent figures show the Brexit fallout is proving a growing challenge in the battle to lure UK visitors to this country.

Numbers are down 6pc for the first half of the year.

A serious shortage of hotel beds in Dublin has also forced a major rethink on another 'themed year'.

When the Gathering promotion was held in 2013, it provided a €170m windfall - with an impressive 275,000 additional visitors lured to Ireland.

However, the Department of Tourism has indicated a 'Gathering No 2' is now on the back-burner. A spokesperson said while the idea was "under consideration", uncertainty over Brexit means making a final decision on the matter difficult.

Sources stress currency fluctuations, coupled with other uncertainties in the medium to longer term, are dramatically changing the tourism landscape.

If another Gathering-style initiative does get the green light, it will be timed to make use of 'spare capacity' in hotel accommodation.

Optimum access to Ireland through air and sea ports will also be a deciding factor.

Both 2015 and 2016 were record years for the tourist industry here - and overall visitor numbers are up again in 2017.

However, figures this week show the Brexit fallout is beginning to have potentially serious consequences for the number of British tourists coming here.

Between January and July this year, the number dropped to 2m, down from 2.2m in the same period last year, a 6.2pc decrease.

The decline is mainly due to currency fluctuations which have seen the sterling drop in value compared with the euro.

This has resulted in a weaker exchange rate for UK travellers, making Ireland an increasingly expensive place to visit from Britain. Latest exchange rates show sterling at £0.91 against the euro.

Industry experts say the areas most affected by the Brexit fallout are Dublin, the border regions and the south-east.

A department spokesperson confirmed it was currently closely monitoring trends in the tourism sector.

It is also examining "wider developments" which will feed into the "consideration of the timing of a themed year".

"The performance of the British market is a concern," added the spokesperson.

"The tourism agencies are working to help minimise losses from this important market, whilst at the same time encouraging and facilitating visitors from other sources."

The spokesperson added that Tourism Ireland was currently working on a specific publicity initiative in Britain.

Meanwhile, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation is predicting that Brexit will cost the Irish tourism industry €100m this year.

Sunday Independent

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