Business Irish

Sunday 21 January 2018

Aer Lingus takeover would boost tourism

Deal would secure carrier's future, says ITIC chief

Tourism bosses support IAG's bid for Aer Lingus, new research shows.Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
Tourism bosses support IAG's bid for Aer Lingus, new research shows.Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Tourism bosses support IAG's bid for Aer Lingus, new research shows.

Almost 70pc of respondents were broadly in favour of the proposed sale of Aer Lingus to IAG in a new poll.

Just a fifth were opposed, while 12pc classed themselves as "undecided" or "don't know". The poll of 88 senior tourism executives was conducted on behalf of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC).

The Government still has not made a decision about whether or not to sell to IAG, six months after IAG made its preliminary approach to buy the airline. It is offering to pay a total of €2.55 per Aer Lingus share. The company's shares traded around the €2.40 mark last week. The Government wants assurances on the future use of Heathrow slots, connectivity and jobs.

"The deal would secure the future of the carrier and opens up global connectivity opportunities that otherwise would not be realised" said ITIC chairman Paul Gallagher.

The poll also revealed the tourism bosses felt negatively towards the Government's new tourism plans. The targets set are not ambitious enough, senior industry executives believe.

Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe's three main aims are to grow revenue from overseas tourism to €5bn per year, increase the number of people working in the sector from 200,000 to 250,000 and attract 10 million visitors to Ireland by 2025.

The steps it wants to take to reach those aims include encouraging more events, festivals and conferences, improving training and skills standards in the industry and ensuring the communities and local authorities play a stronger role.

But less than a third of respondents to the tourism poll endorsed the targets. One in three gave them a negative rating.

"The last tourism policy document from the period 2003-2013 had a target of 10 million visitors and €6bn to be achieved by 2013.

"We should be more ambitious, given that almost eight million visitors will come here this year," said Gallagher.

Looking beyond the sale of Aer Lingus and Government targets, the research showed healthy growth in the tourism industry, with the majority of businesses predicting growth in profitability and employment in the next three years.

Almost two out of three are planning to grow capacity between now and 2018. One in eight is planning for 20pc plus expansion.

Sunday Indo Business

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