Business Irish

Thursday 22 August 2019

US terror warning to hit tourism here

Global travel alert to spark drop in Americans visiting Ireland

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Hotels, airlines and the wider leisure sector in Ireland are bracing for an anticipated drop in US tourist numbers after American authorities issued a global travel alert.

Coming ahead of the shooting down of a Russian war plane on the Syrian border by Turkey, the warning sent global travel and tourism shares sharply down.

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama called on the European Union to share data with the US about transatlantic air passengers following his first face-to-face meeting with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, since last week's deadly attacks in Paris.

Before that, the US State Department issued a global alert for Americans planning to travel, saying potential attackers could target private or government interests.

The department did not advise people against travel but said US citizens should be vigilant, especially in crowded places.

A string of terror attacks in Paris, Beirut, Egypt, Tunisia and Mali, and the security lockdown in Brussels, are now dominating global headlines.

A drop in visitor numbers would be a huge blow to Ireland's tourism industry, which bounced back faster than expected from the financial crash, boosted over the past three years in particular by the weak euro, a reduced VAT rate and initiatives including The Gathering and the Wild Atlantic Way, which helped attract massive numbers of overseas visitors, from the UK and America in particular.

Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport are expected to beat 2008's record 23 million figure by the end of this year.

In Dublin, many so-called 'zombie hotels' left empty in the immediate wake of the crash have seen vacancy rates plunge through much of this year.

Industry insiders say visitor numbers are holding up so far, helped by the fact that the busy season for US tourists ended in October.

"There has been very little change in bookings levels following the (US) announcement and this is also reflected in forward bookings. It's important to keep in mind that tourism business from North America into Ireland is predominantly during early April to October," a spokesman for the Irish Hotels Federation said.

Aer Lingus and the country's biggest hotel operator Dalata declined to comment.

In European markets, airlines, hotel groups and even cruise ship operators were all hit, including Aer Lingus owner IAG.

The airline group saw its shares fall 3.5pc - enough to wipe €380m off its market value.

The worst hit shares included Accor, Europe's biggest hotel operator.

Its stock was as much as 9pc lower at one stage.

In Dublin, Dalata shares fell by almost 4pc at one stage before bouncing back.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Simon Coveney accused opposition TD Clare Daly of appearing to suggest "that the tragedy of Paris is the fault of the French Government as opposed to madmen, who are fundamentalists and who want to destroy the way of life that cities like Paris represent".

He was responding to Ms Daly, who said the Government had "an incredibly fluid interpretation of what it means to be a neutral country".

Ms Daly said the minister's readiness to send Irish troops to Mali in order to allow French army officials to focus on domestic security exposed "utter hypocrisy".

Irish Independent

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