Good summer forecast for hospitality sector

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Brian Harrington, Radison Blue Hotel, Limerick and Chairman of the Shannon branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

HOTEL and guesthouse owners in Limerick are forecasting a good summer, according to the latest industry survey undertaken by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

70 per cent say business is up, compared to the same time last year, with increases in home holidaymakers and visitors from overseas markets, particularly North America and continental Europe.

IHF Shannon branch chairman Brian Harrington said that although the outlook is encouraging there is little room for complacency.

“Despite the upturn, not every tourism business is enjoying the same level of success and the hotel sector is still a number of years away from achieving sustainability in certain regional areas,” he said.

Nationally, almost half of hoteliers are seeing a drop in UK business while one in five say their advance bookings for the rest of the summer are down compared to last year.

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According to the IHF survey, the domestic market remains buoyant with 60 per cent of hoteliers seeing an increase in home-grown business compared to this time last year. In terms of overseas visitors, 60 per cent of hoteliers say business from the US is up while 41 per cent are seeing an increase from Germany.

With so many still experiencing a drop off in business, Mr Harrington says the UK market continues to be a significant concern. Although the decline seems to have tapered off, only 18 per cent of hoteliers are seeing an increase in UK visitors.

Employment growth is set to continue in 2018 and Mr Harrington said the tourism industry is on track to creating 40,000 new jobs by 2021.

“47 per cent of hoteliers expect to increase their staffing levels over the next year with opportunities available across all areas of business, from entry-level positions to jobs for experienced staff,” he said.

The tourism industry is Ireland’s largest indigenous employer. It supports approximately 230,000 jobs – equivalent to 11 per cent of total employment – with more than 60,000 of these jobs in the hotel sector alone. Employment in the tourism sector has grown by more than 60,000 since 2011, an increase of 33 per cent, compared to 13 per cent throughout the overall economy.

Mr Harrington said that the continued growth in tourism has created a renewed interest in employment within the sector.

“We have made considerable progress in developing varied career paths for new and existing employees that support professional development and advancement with skills that are transferable internationally. The new industry-led Commis Chef Apprenticeship programme launched earlier this year with Solas, for example, enables young people who may not necessarily want to commit to a full-time college course gain an internationally recognised qualification while getting valuable on the job experience,” he added.

The improving business levels that the sector is seeing has also given hoteliers increased confidence.

Almost all hoteliers plan to invest in capital expenditure projects over the next 12 months. The majority intend to refurbish or redecorate their properties, while half are planning to invest in technology with improvements to broadband a key focus.

Mr Harrington said that continued government supports such as the nine per cent VAT rate and zero travel tax have been hugely significant in underpinning the recovery of the tourism sector.

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by Tom McCullough
[email protected]