Tourism facing a huge slowdown over Brexit and euro uncertainty
Brexit is to hit the Irish tourism industry next year with growth rates set to plummet by an astonishing 9pc in just 12 months.
Tourism Ireland predicted that the sector would show 1pc growth in visitor numbers across 2017 - a major slowdown given the remarkable expansion of 10pc in visitor numbers this year.
Brexit, the strength of sterling against the euro and economic concerns across core markets are being blamed for the dramatic slowdown in growth.
However, Tourism Ireland boss Niall Gibbons said Ireland would target spending growth with visitors to Ireland in 2017 expected to stay longer and spend more compared with visitors in 2007.
"The best prospects for growth next year are across North America. We will see a growth of at least 10pc in seat numbers so that offers great prospects," he said.
"We are also expanding advertising across Germany and France next year."
However, Ireland's traditional reliance on the UK market has caused concern given repeated predictions that UK holidaymakers will travel less next year due to Brexit.
"In relation to Britain, we will have to see how it pans out. It is really going to be all about exchange rates," he said. "We are focusing on 4.5pc growth in visitor spending."
Junior Tourism Minister Patrick O'Donovan paid tribute to Tourism Ireland for an astonishingly successful tourist season.
But he admitted the Government would need to work hard with tourism interests to tackle challenges going forward ranging from the Brexit fallout to hotel bed supply within the critical Dublin market.
"We have a low-lying capital city - a low rise capital, certainly compared to other European capital cities," he said. "We will have to have a conversation about that someday."
Central to that is the absence of high-rise buildings such as major hotels in the city centre and suburbs.
However, Ireland's tourism performance in 2016 was hailed as a triumph.
Top heritage attractions hailed a bumper season with visitor numbers up by between 5pc and 10pc.
The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, the Cliffs of Moher, Fota Wildlife Park, Newgrange/Brú na Bóinne, Blarney Castle, the Rock of Cashel and Loop Head Lighthouse enjoyed strong visitor numbers. Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports also enjoyed a bumper year.