Hoteliers are concerned by the latest British visitor numbers.
Leitrim hoteliers have expressed serious concern about the significant drop in British visitors during the first seven months of the year.
The latest CSO figures show a decrease of 6.2% nationally in trips from our largest market compared to the same period last year.
Local hotels in Leitrim, however, are reporting an even more pronounced drop in visitor numbers from Britain, which in many cases is almost double this figures.
Fergal Ryan, Chair of the Leitrim branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), said the recent recovery in tourism is now under threat as a result of Brexit, with fewer people from Britain visiting Ireland due to the significant drop in the value of Sterling and increased economic uncertainty.
He notes that Ireland is extremely reliant on visitors from Britain, which accounts for over 40% of overseas visitors.
“Tourism in Leitrim in particular relies heavily on the UK market, so any fall off in numbers gives cause for serious concern. While the drop in visitors from Britain has been offset by increases in other markets, such as North America and the rest of Europe, we are seeing a significant slowdown in tourism growth so far this year.
"An additional concern is a weakening in visitor numbers from Northern Ireland that is also occurring. These are worrying trends both for the national tourism industry and our local economy.”
So far this year visitors from the rest of Europe are up 4.3% while visitors from North America are up 17.4%, resulting in an overall increase in overseas visitors of 3.1% compared to 12.7% for the same period last year.
“Tourism has received a welcome uplift in recent years which is being felt on the ground here in Leitrim. However, we cannot afford to take this recovery for granted.”
Mr Ryan says the growth has been underpinned a number of direct actions from the Government, including the 9% tourism VAT rate and the zero rate travel tax. He states that the tourism VAT rate in particular has been of vital importance to the industry.
“It has brought our VAT rate into line with other European destinations with which we compete and continues to deliver enormous benefits to the exchequer by making us more attractive as a tourism destination.”
While Mr Ryan says that hoteliers in Leitrim are optimistic about the potential for continued growth that tourism can bring to the local economy, he states the industry has some pressing challenges which underline the fragility of the sector’s recovery.
“As the latest figures show, there is no denying that our industry faces significant risks associated with Brexit. Unfortunately regional tourism is likely to be hit hardest as the UK market has the widest regional seasonal spread of visitors.”