Hoteliers hiring but Brexit still a worry
More than 40pc of Ireland's hoteliers intend hiring more staff next year, but virtually all of them are concerned about the impact of Brexit.
A survey by the Irish Hotel Federation (IHF) also found that 66pc of hoteliers here had reported an increase in the number of Christmas parties and events this year as companies loosened the purse strings again after years of austerity.
This year has seen one of the strongest tourism performances since the recession, with 82pc of hoteliers saying they saw an increase in business.
The industry benefited from an 11pc increase in overseas visitors to Ireland during the year, reflecting significant growth in key markets over the past 11 months. This included individual market growth from North America, with visitor numbers up 18pc, Britain up 11pc, and the rest of Europe increasing by 9pc.
"However, the continued uncertainty over Brexit and the fall in the value of sterling are casting a shadow over the industry," the federation said.
"There are good reasons to be optimistic about our key North America and European markets in the coming year," IHF president Joe Dolan said.
He pointed out that Irish tourism experienced a record-breaking year in 2016.
Recent figures from the Central Statistics Office showed that 8.9 million overseas visitors had come to Ireland so far this year, an 11pc increase on 2015.
"However, there are signs that growth is slowing out of the UK market," Mr Dolan said.
"While it is too early to say what the effect of Brexit will be, the uncertainty and the fall in the value of sterling will pose challenges."
Almost a fifth of hoteliers surveyed by the IHF said that there had been a fall in the number of forward bookings from customers in Northern Ireland, who until this year had been able to take advantage of strong sterling to secure deals here. About 30pc of hoteliers had seen a drop in the number of bookings being made from Britain.
Yesterday, Ireland's biggest hotel operator, Dalata, said it had seen no impact yet from Brexit.
The hotel sector has been successful in persuading the Government to retain a 9pc Vat rate that it said had been instrumental in creating thousands of jobs.