Regional Imbalance Worries Hoteliers

One third of hoteliers will not make a profit in 2015, according to members of the Irish Hotels Federation, who claim overhanging debt, commercial rates and lack of incen


tives to entice tourists beyond traditional “hotspots” are still threatening profitability.
The hoteliers are attending their annual confereence in the Slieve Russell Hotel this week and to-day's speakers include Professor Alan Ahearne, Economist, Sarah Duignan, Director of Account Management, STR Global,  Aiden Murphy, Partner, Crowe
Horwath, David Zammitt, Industry Manager, Google UK Travel Team, Alan O’Neill, Change Consultant, Kara Change Management, Warren MacDonald, Inspirational Keynote Speaker, Brian Cody, Kilkenny Senior Hurling Team Manager and Minisyer Michael Ring.
Speaking at the opening of the conference at the Slieve Russell Hotel  a number of hoteliers said they had deals with suppliers and staff to cut costs following the economic collapse in 2008.
While occupancy rates in Dublin rose by 3 per cent in 2014, and are set to grow by at least that much again this year, hoteliers in other areas said they had not done so well and were now facing calls for “pay back” from staff and suppliers.
A number of speakers at the conference said the recovery was fragile and the reduced 9 per cent VAT rate continued to be vital to the industry.
Hotels Federation chief executive Tim Fenn said regional tourism required greater Government support as the slower pace of recovery in some areas is a “major challenge for many hotels and guesthouses”.
 Stephen McNally, President of the IHF (pictured with ceo Tim Fenn) said that the funding allocation for the State's tourism bodies has been cut back substantially since the downturn and now needs to be reinstated. He adds that, with additional funding, the Government target of 10 million visitors generating an additional 50,000 new jobs could be achieved by 2020 as opposed to the current target of 2025. 
 Since 2012, annual Government funding for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland has been cut by €25m to €119m (down 17%), resulting in significantly constrained budgets for tourism marketing and development. This has come at a time when tourism has shown itself to be an excellent investment for the country, contributing over €6.45bn to the economy annually and employing 205,000 people. 
 Noting that the Government aims to grow overseas visitors to 10 million per annum by 2025, thereby creating an additional 50,000 jobs, Mr McNally says: "While we welcome these targets, we would maintain that they should be more ambitious given the wider outlook for tourism in Europe. With additional resources, we believe Tourism Ireland could be well placed to meet these targets by 2020."
Another pressing challenge facing the industry is the need to attract more visitors to the regions. Unfortunately, recent growth in overseas visitors has not been spread evenly across the country and many rural tourism businesses continue to face tough trading conditions. This is a major challenge given the vital social and economic role that tourism employment plays in rural areas.
"We need to create a more unified approach that gives tourism a stronger role in informing and influencing planning and development policy at national and local levels," says Mr McNally. "While we welcome the significant progress that is already being made in this area, more needs to be done to ensure greater collaboration between tourism industry partners, including businesses, local communities, state agencies and local authorities."
With the Government due to publish its Tourism Policy Statement shortly, Mr McNally states that greater collaboration will stand to the industry in the years ahead and ensure Irish tourism is well placed to grow and prosper – the benefits of which will be felt across the entire country. 



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