Tourism chiefs warn number of British visitors down 4pc last year but Europe, US stronger
TOURISM chiefs have warned that recovery from the industry's strongest market, Britain, has failed to materialise despite modest successes elsewhere.
The 2012 review said nearly 6.5 million overseas visitors came to Ireland during the year but numbers from England, Scotland and Wales were down 4pc to an estimated 2.8 million.
On the plus side, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (Itic) said many traditional and some developing markets appear to be driving the recovery with a 2pc increase from Europe to 2.4 million visitors and a similar increase from North America to almost 1 million.
Areas classed as emerging markets are up by about 4pc to 370,000.
Itic chairman John Healy said continuing economic difficulties and depressed consumer confidence led to ongoing tough trading.
"After five years of difficulties, our industry urgently needs a road map to plot the way forward by focusing on key growth markets and delivering visitor experiences better fitted to the new economic environment and the changing needs of consumers," he said.
"The travel industry is undergoing fundamental change and we need to ensure that Ireland is market ready by adapting to evolving consumer tastes and new communication and distribution channels to ensure that we win share in a world of increasing competition.
"The time is now opportune for Government together with the industry to re-assess national tourism policy within the context of Ireland's economic recovery. A new strategic plan is urgently needed to provide a framework for investment, marketing and implementation against an agreed set of targets."
The review also noted that Dublin performed well in 2012 and the domestic market also enjoyed reasonable returns given the fragile state of the economy and poor summer weather. The Itic said it was mainly due to less frequent, shorter and lower spending trips by Irish residents.
The Itic said that the lower VAT rate for the industry will help to maintain business in the coming year.
2013 is also the year of The Gathering, a year-long initiative to attract more of the Irish diaspora to visit the country, with industry chiefs claiming it has the potential to deliver 5% growth.