Brexit putting off German visitors, hotel chief warns
Europe bookings weak, amid border delay fears
Germany and other key tourist markets in Europe have had their confidence in travelling to Ireland shaken by Brexit, according to a leading hotel organisation.
Stephen Belton, newly appointed president of Original Irish Hotels, a grouping of 60 premises, said that 2019 would be a challenging year for the sector.
"The media in Germany have been equating Brexit with Ireland and borders etc. That's what we're being told by the German operators," he said.
"I think German people can be slightly conservative when they are travelling. And if they hear about delays in checks and borders, they get nervous.
"We're looking at bookings coming down the line and they are soft from Europe.
"I think Tourism Ireland realise that now and are getting the message out there," added Belton, managing director of the Garryvoe Hotel and the Bayview in Ballycotton, Co Cork.
He also said that the performance of British visitors into Ireland is mixed.
"I have been told by two ferry companies that people aren't booking yet because of Brexit," he said. The American market is performing well, however.
The name Original Irish Hotels was launched in May 2018 and was a coming together of two brands, Manor House Hotels and Irish Country Hotels. Only three of its 60 independently-owned hotels are in Dublin and nearly all of the hotels in the grouping are four-star properties.
It represents 9pc of the hotel stock in Ireland and is the largest independent hotel grouping in the country
The organisation rebranded in a bid to raise profile among Irish visitors. Belton is optimistic about the domestic market, despite the restoration of the higher Vat rate this year. "The domestic market will be fine. There will be a certain amount of growth in the domestic market but I will qualify that by saying that when the economy goes well Irish people like to go abroad," Belton said.
He believes Irish people have accepted the Vat rate but he said that it had been more difficult for hoteliers to pass on the hike to international visitors as rates had been agreed with tour operators well before the announcement in Budget 2019.
While rates have been increased in 2019, all the hotels have agreed with overseas operators not make any further increases for 2020.
Belton said that while forward bookings were weak, Easter had been good for the sector.
"The Wild Atlantic Way has been a huge success, it's a geographic route and it has been a great idea," he said.
"Ireland's Ancient East and Hidden Heartlands need more work," he added.
"They are not geographic routes. They are contextual rather than geographic, so it's a long-term scenario."
Sunday Indo Business