Irish tourism industry enjoyed one of its strongest ever years in 2016
The Irish tourism industry enjoyed one of its strongest ever years in 2016, with all parts of the sector reporting buoyant demand.
Fáilte Ireland's survey, which examined the tourism sector's performance over the last year, found that profits, occupancy and employment all rose across the industry.
In 2009, three-quarters of all respondents to the same survey reported declines in their business. Today, the share of the market reporting a decline in activity in the past 12 months stands at just 5pc.
Irish tourism appears to be booming, and despite some reservations about the possible effects of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president, most in the industry are forecasting another strong year in 2017.
Almost 80pc of accommodation providers reported an increase in activity, with 82pc of hoteliers saying there was an uptick in occupancy rates.
More than half of B&Bs were up (57pc), while 71pc of hostels also reported an increase in tourist traffic.
Nearly three-quarters (72pc) of restaurant owners said they saw an improvement compared to 2015. However expectations in the food industry are more tempered, with just 50pc of restaurants expecting further improvement in 2017.
Employment in tourism was also up, with just under a quarter of survey respondents (24pc) saying they had hired extra full-time staff over the past 12 months. Thirty-nine per cent of businesses hired extra part-time or seasonal staff compared to 2015.
Employment in the tourism industry is now estimated at around 220,000, with Fáilte Ireland estimating the sector adds €5.7bn a year to the economy.
While the figures are overwhelmingly positive, almost two-thirds of respondents (64pc) said they anticipated Brexit would have a bearing on their business. Many believe that business from the UK and the North could dampen as a result of the referendum.
Fáilte Ireland chairman Michael Cawley insists that people in the industry need to remain responsive to change if the sector is to continue to thrive. "While 2016 delivered an impressive performance, we need to remember that much of this growth has been fuelled largely by factors external to the tourism industry, not least increased air access into the island." he said.
"As a small open tourism economy, we are at the mercy of external events and the unexpected Brexit and US presidential results - with their potential for volatility - have certainly softened the cough of anyone tempted to be complacent."
More than two-thirds (68pc) said repeat business would be the most important factor in 2017, while 58pc said their own marketing campaigns would be a key factor in maintaining a strong performance.
Just under half (49pc) said the Wild Atlantic Way would be an important source of tourists, while 36pc said an improvement in access for overseas tourists would prove helpful.