Tuesday, February 25 11:15:46
The Irish tourist industry has the potential to create an additional 74,000 jobs by 2020, delegates at the Irish Hotels Federation's (IHF) 75th Annual Conference heard today.
Stephen McNally, who was elected President of the IHF today, said that, with appropriate supports, the industry could be well-positioned to achieve an ambitious target of 10 million overseas visitors per annum by the end of the decade - up from 7 million in 2013.
To deliver on this bold ambition would require a clearly focused tourism strategy backed by all industry stakeholders, cross Government policy, additional investment in tourism marketing, greater air access into the country and increased resources for tourism product development, he said.
Building on over 23,300 new tourism jobs created since 2011 and the 7.2pc growth in overseas visitors in 2013, Mr McNally said that an average annual growth in visitor numbers of 6pc would generate an additional E540 million in annual tax revenue and bring total employment in tourism to over 270,000 up from the current 196,000 employed today. These jobs would be spread across every corner of the country, creating sustainable indigenous local employment and contributing significantly to the export economy.
The IHF wants Government to commit to increased investment in tourism marketing and product development, a high level strategy with detailed targets and industry representation on tourism agency boards.
Mr McNally states that the first step needs to be a full restoration of the Tourism Marketing Fund's allocation by the Government, which fell from E47 million in 2009 to E37 million this year.
This reduction was introduced despite the enormous return marketing investment delivers to the Irish economy, generating E5.7 billion in tourism revenue last year alone. Mr McNally also called for the creation of an annual capital investment fund of E30 million to be ring-fenced for national tourism product development. "Irish tourism needs to be more ambitious in the targets it sets itself. We need to be more aggressive in competing for overseas holidaymakers and growing market share in our core markets such as North America and Europe," says Mr McNally. "The priority now must be to increase the level of funding available to generate 'must see' momentum behind Brand Ireland, including additional investment in our natural product infrastructure and heritage attractions."
"As an island destination with no passing footfall, we have to do better and be smarter than our international competitors at marketing ourselves," continues Mr McNally. "We've traditionally punched above our weight in terms of brand awareness abroad but we now face a real risk of falling behind as international competition intensifies and visitors' needs evolve. We cannot afford to stand still. Increased direct expenditure on destination marketing is now essential if Ireland is to remain to the fore among choices being considered by potential visitors."