American tourists staying away in droves
THE number of wealthy US tourists travelling to Ireland has dropped by almost 15pc -- and those who do travel are spending less.
The rising price of oil, the strong euro and a downturn in the economy are being blamed for the slow numbers. The result has been a significant number of hotels advertising special offers in order to attract customers.
Dick Bourke, chairman of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, said 2008 has been a "mixed" year to date.
"The Irish domestic market is performing well against last year's figures but it is very competitive. Ireland's two main visitor markets, the US and the UK, are both very flat this year," he said.
"Although overall visitor numbers are relatively the same as 2007, spending is down. We find that tourists are not staying as long as they would previously and aren't spending as much when they get here."
John Power of the Irish Hotel Federation (IHF) says occupancy rates in hotels have dropped by about 4pc from last year.
"US business will be substantially down, by between 10 and 15pc I would think. Five-star hotels have been experiencing fewer overseas visitors because of the strong euro. The dollar is worth 16pc less than it was last year," he said.
Dick Bourke expects the remainder of 2008 to follow the same pattern, and says there will be great value deals for holiday-makers not usually available at this time of year.
However, it's not all doom and gloom for the tourism industry. One aspect of the industry that has seen significant growth is coach tours.
The number of coach-touring holidays in Ireland increased by 57pc between 2002 and 2006 and the number of visitors arriving by air and then joining a coach tour rose by 162pc over the same period.