Category: Archive

Tourism tumble

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

It’s expected that Brian Cowen, who arrived in the U.S. yesterday for his first visit since being elected taoiseach, will address the issue during his intensive program of engagements.
The situation has had a chilling effect on the Irish tourism industry, which last year took in $1.5 billion from North American visitors. In May 2007, published airfares for flights between JFK and Knock were as low as $499 each way for the summer season. This year, a flight between JFK and Shannon in July averages $1,167.00.
Hoteliers in Ireland are calling on the nation’s all-island tourism body, Tourism Ireland, to do more to lure Americans to the Emerald Isle. Tourist numbers from the U.S. are estimated to be down between 10 and 15 per cent, with the West and Killarney in the southwest among the areas hardest hit.
“We need a hard sell now from Tourism Ireland,” said Paul Gill, head of the Galway branch of the Irish Hotel Federation.
Joe Byrne, Tourism Ireland’s Executive Vice President for North America, told the Irish Echo that while the number of American visitors to Ireland will almost certainly fall short of last year’s record numbers, there are still compelling reasons for people to visit the island of Ireland.
“When we look at customer satisfaction levels — other than price – they are higher than they have ever been before,” he said. “The challenge for us is to battle harder — with a vigorous marketing campaign — to get the message to the consumer.”
Byrne pointed out that the tourism agency has mounted two ad campaigns this year. The first, designed to encourage tourists to sample the varied attractions of the island, carries the tagline, “Ireland – can you afford not to go?” and includes information on airfare specials, accommodation deals and good product offerings. The second campaign, “Discover Ireland’s Wonderful West,” is targeted at highlighting the region that stretches from Donegal to Kerry.
“We have been given a special budget to promote the western seaboard,” he said. “The region faces a particular challenge, because there are fewer flights to Shannon Airport this year, due to the Open Skies policy.”
Many hotels are offering the type of rates and packages that are normally reserved for off-season visitors, in an effort to lure U.S. customers.
Howard Hastings of the Hastings Hotel Group, which has hotels in both the North and the South, told the Irish Echo that there has been “a bit of a drop-off in American numbers in the early season – around March – and in bookings for the late-season period around October.”
“Certainly it’s the dollar but it’s also more than that, with the economy in a distressed state and the value of U.S homes falling, many Americans feel this isn’t a good time to spend lots of money going away,” he said.
A spokesperson for Dan Dooley Car Rentals, one of the largest vehicle rental agencies in Ireland, told the Irish Echo that the company anticipates that it will take time for the tourism industry to recover from the current slump.
“Irish tourism will eventually bounce back,” he said. “But it could be a rough next two years.”

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