Wednesday 21 August 2019

Tourism Ireland spending €7m to reassure UK citizens Ireland 'is still open for business'

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland

Allison Bray

Tourism Ireland is spending €7m this year to reassure UK citizens that Ireland "is still open for business" even in a hard Brexit scenario.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said Brexit is the single biggest threat to the Irish tourism market. Consequently, the Ireland-wide tourism body has engaged in a massive publicity campaign in the UK to reassure would-be holiday-makers that "Ireland is still open for business."

In a "worst-case scenario" the tourism industry in the Republic alone could lose €390m a year, he told Independent.ie.

A RedC poll commissioned by a special UK and Irish tourism industry Brexit task force last January revealed that 12pc of UK citizens would postpone their holidays as the threat of a no-deal Brexit loomed this spring.

"That would have a serious impact if that were to happen again," Mr Gibbons said of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit for UK visitors as the October 31 deadline looms.

Noting that the UK comprises 40pc of the Irish tourism market, he said the fear is that UK holiday-makers may stay closer to home rather than take short breaks to Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

"Brexit remains the biggest ongoing challenge, causing uncertainty in Britain and in some mainland Europe markets," he said at a press conference in Dublin today announcing the board's mid-year review.

"The shift in the sterling/euro exchange rate is impacting our competitiveness and has exacerbated the perception of higher prices here than in Britain; it has also made Britain more affordable for visitors from many of our top markets," he said.

Meanwhile, CSO figures for the first five months of 2019 showed a marginal increase of 3.7pc in overseas tourist visits to the Republic.

But the fact that the number of visitors from the UK and mainland Europe dropped by 4.4pc and 4.6pc respectively in May, is a worrying trend, Mr Gibbons said.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Shane Ross said 'that ship has sailed' when asked if he would like to see the VAT rate for the hospitality sector revert to a lower rate of 9pc.

He said he was opposed to it going back to the 13.5pc rate this year but it is now a matter to be discussed in the upcoming budget.

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