DESPITE good news on the overseas visitors front warning notes have been sounded in Limerick that Brexit could yet topple the apple-cart.
Limerick hoteliers have welcomed the continued growth in overseas visitor figures announced this week by the CSO. Sounding a note of caution, however, Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, Chair of the Shannon branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) warned that risks due to the Brexit referendum decision could jeopardise the continued recovery of the sector.
The latest figures show a 13 per cent increase in trips to the country during the first half of the year. Visitor numbers from Britain are up by 16 per cent. The rest of Europe is showing an increase of 11 per cent while the number of visitors from North America is up by 15 pe cent.
“Hoteliers in Limerick are very concerned that economic uncertainty and a weaker Sterling could impact on future inbound tourism from the UK, which is Ireland’s largest overseas market – accounting for over 40 per cent of trips to the country each year,” said Ms Fitzgerald Kane.
“We are in uncharted territory, with Sterling having dropped by 16 per cent against the Euro compared to this time last year, reducing the spending power of visitors from Britain and Northern Ireland. A sustained weakness in Sterling would present a serious challenge for our local tourism industry as we compete to attract visitors and holiday makers.
Ms Fitzgerald Kane noted that the risks associated with Brexit are now being reflected in forecasts for the UK economy, with growth being revised downwards and the prospect of a UK recession increasing.
“Recent reports indicate that the Brexit result is already taking a toll on the underlying UK economy in terms of business sentiment and consumer confidence. This is likely to have a knock-on effect on consumer spending and the numbers of British people travelling overseas. Early reports of similar falls in Irish business and consumer sentiment are also worrying given how highly sensitive the domestic tourism market is to consumer confidence.”
“The vast majority of our members are concerned about the impact Brexit will have on their businesses over the next twelve months and the wider implications for the industry,” said Ms Fitzgerald Kane. “Tourism has recovered in recent years following the downturn and is now a major contributor to our local economy, generating €180 million in annual revenues and supporting 7,000 jobs in Limerick. Continued recovery cannot be taken for granted, however. Our industry remains vulnerable to external economic shocks, such as the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and we must plan accordingly.”