Saturday 15 December 2018

Hotels fear Brexit challenge

Maria Herlihy

Brexit remains a major concern for the hotel sector in Cork and across the country, according to the latest quarterly barometer from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

With UK visitor numbers down by 6% year on year, according to the latest CSO figures, three in five (59%) hotel and guesthouse owners nationally say the weakened sterling has had a negative effect on their business during 2017. 

Furthermore, three in five (62%) report a fall in business from Great Britain with two in five (40%) seeing a similar drop from Northern Ireland, compared to 2016. Almost all hoteliers surveyed (94%) called for additional marketing support and product development for their region. 

Growth in overseas visitor numbers from other markets - especially US, France and Germany - as well as a strong performance in the domestic market have helped to compensate for the fall in UK visitors for now. Three quarters (75%) of hoteliers saw an increase in business from the domestic market during 2017 while nearly seven in ten (68%) said their US business had increased.

Business from continental Europe continued to grow also with over half of the hoteliers (51%) reporting an increase in business from Germany.  

The net effect though is that overall growth is slowing, with overseas visitor numbers increasing by just 3% to the end October 2017, compared to a rise of over 11% at the same time last year³. 

Tourism currently supports 20,100 jobs in Cork and contributes some €820m to the local economy annually. Aaron Mansworth, Chair of the IHF's Cork branch, said that while visitor numbers may still be up, the tourism and hospitality sector cannot afford to be complacent about the future.

"The continued fall-out from Brexit and the slowdown in visitor growth are worrying as they have a significant regional bias. For too long we have had a two-tier tourism sector where businesses in the major cities and tourism hotspots benefit more than the regions. We must diversify into new markets and we welcome the work being done in that regard. However, it cannot be at the expense of our existing markets, particularly the UK, which has the broadest regional and seasonal spread of visitors."  

He said: "Hoteliers in Cork and across the country are investing in their properties and in staff recruitment and development to ensure that we continue to be an attractive, value for money destination for all visitors and especially visitors from the UK. 

"Nationally, nearly nine in ten hoteliers (86%) plan to undertake refurbishment or capital investment projects over the next year while over half (53%) expect to increase their staff levels in 2018, with most intending to recruit staff across all levels of their business."