The chief executive of Fáilte Ireland says that domestic tourism is at a "low ebb" due to the Covid-19 pandemic but stressed the need for the sector to spearhead a recovery once the crisis has passed.
Writing in the 2019 Fáilte Ireland annual report, Paul Kelly said it "is not just a review of last year, it looks back on what seems now like another era".
"This report is written at a low ebb, after a high point," he said.
'It is written too with determination to restart our industry, to ensure our well-trained people have a future in an Irish tourism industry characterised by old values of hospitality and new ideas of innovation."
That high point was 2019, with the report showing 9.7m overseas tourists in addition to domestic trips in 2019, an increase in the number of people employed in the sector and the highest ever number of foreign tourists here.
However, the report points out that more than 70% of overseas holiday bed-nights were spent in just five counties in what Mr Kelly said was "a disparity we are keen to address".
This points to the untapped potential in many parts of Ireland where there is a need for more tourism growth and job creation," he said. "We will not allow 2019 to become a historic memory of lost, good old days."
That view was echoed by Fáilte Ireland interim chairperson, Paul Carty, who wrote of the "devastating effect on all tourism" of the pandemic.
"The challenges the virus poses to the health and welfare of our people are immense," he said, adding that Brexit and other issues had already had an impact on the sector in 2019.
He referred to a time of unprecedented crisis but said the "winning formula" of 2019 would serve as a guide to recovery in the tourism sector here.
The report suggests 2019 was a year of "uneven growth across core overseas markets", with the number of North American tourists falling by 3% to 1.9m tourists, after six years of double-digit growth, but demand from mainland Europe growing to 3.6m tourists, up 3%, surpassing record numbers in 2018.
It said despite uncertainty caused by Brexit, tourist numbers from Britain stayed "relatively static" at 3.5m tourists in 2019.