The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) blames Brexit for the negative feelings its members are reporting for 2019. Anna Tobins investigates
2018 was a growth year for the Irish hotel industry, but look forward to 2019 and business sentiment among Irish hotels drops significantly, according to the IHF‘s latest hotel barometer. Less than half of hotels (49%) are feeling positive about the next 12 months, down from 82% this time last year. The growing risks and uncertainty associated with Brexit, a fall in visitor numbers from the UK and a rise in costs were the key reasons given for this fall in business confidence.
Although 73% of hotels saw a rise in overall business levels in 2018, growth from North America and Europe masked the poor performance of the UK market, with UK visitors down 5% on 2016, due to persistently weak performance following the referendum. Hotels throughout the Republic of Ireland reported a 52% drop in business from Great Britain and 40% have seen a drop in business from Northern Ireland. An overwhelming majority of hotels (91%) expressed concern about the impact of Brexit on their business over the next year.
“We are increasingly concerned about the direction that Brexit is taking and the impact that heightened uncertainty is having on our sector. A disruptive Brexit would have enormous economic repercussions, which would be felt directly by tourism businesses given our heavy reliance on the UK market,” says IHF president Michael Lennon.
“…The consistent growth achieved over the last seven years in a dynamic and competitive international market cannot be taken for granted. We are particularly concerned with the [Irish] Government’s change in approach to tourism and the lack of recognition of the important role it plays as an engine of economic growth and regional balance. With the Brexit storm gathering, relentless increases in the cost of doing business, international trade wars, a slowdown in European growth and the increase in tourism VAT, there is little surprise in the drop in business sentiment. Many of our members are now re-examining their future investment strategies and taking a more cautious approach to planning for next year and beyond.
“The [Irish] Government must mitigate Brexit-related risks to tourism and facilitate the continued growth of an industry that supports approximately 266,000 jobs, over 70% of which are outside Dublin. There are aspects of the economic environment and Brexit that are largely outside our control, but it is imperative that we mitigate the risks and potential damage where we do have some control over our destiny. We have to retain our competitiveness and this means taking decisive action on the issues that are affecting the cost of doing business.”