Business sentiment across the tourism sector remains buoyant but there is evidence of optimism tempered by caution within the industry as 2016 ended and attention turned to 2017 - fuelled mainly by the uncertainties around Brexit.
This is according to Fáilte Ireland’s latest Tourism Barometer Survey, published today.
The survey shows there has been a slight drop in positive sentiment. While three quarters (76%) remain confident about their business, the upward trend seen since 2010 has not continued.
With respect to 2017 and the year ahead, today’s Barometer Survey indicates that two thirds (64%) of paid serviced accommodation providers (PSA) expect their business to further increase next year. Hotels and visitor attractions are the most optimistic sectors with 67% expecting to build on growth in 2017.
Almost 80% of accommodation providers reported increased profitability in 2016, rising to 82% among hoteliers. As visitor numbers increased across the industry, so too did employment levels. Encouragingly, a quarter (24%) of respondents took on more full time staff this year, including 39% of hotels.
Additionally, a third (32%) of respondents employed more part time and seasonal staff in 2016 compared to last year. Again, the sector taking on more part time and seasonal staff was the hotel industry, with nearly half (47%) reporting increases in both and reflecting record activity during summer 2016
Brexit dominates as a concern for tourism businesses going into 2017, mentioned as an issue for 64% of respondents to the Tourism Barometer. Many businesses feel that British and Northern Ireland tourism demand will be dampened by the impact of the Brexit process on exchange rates in the short to medium term.
Speaking today, Fáilte Ireland Chairman, Michael Cawley said, "While 2016 delivered an impressive performance, we need to remember that much of this growth has been fuelled largely by factors external to the tourism industry, not least increased air access into the Island."
He added, "As a small open tourism economy, we are at the mercy of external events and the unexpected Brexit and US presidential results – with their potential for volatility – have certainly softened the cough of anyone tempted to be complacent."