Brexit bites into summer season for Kilkenny hoteliers

Uncertainty around Brexit poses a real threat to tourism industry

Sam Matthews

Reporter:

Email:

sam.matthews@kilkennypeople.ie

Local hoteliers seek retention of 9% VAT rate

Numbers from the UK are down

Hoteliers and guesthouse owners in Kilkenny and across the country are reporting a continued fall in business levels from the UK this summer, according to the results of the latest quarterly barometer from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).

While business levels overall were up nationally across the summer months, most (69%) reported a fall in business from Great Britain, with over half saying Northern Ireland business levels had dropped too. The results of the industry barometer echo the latest CSO figures, which show that Brexit is already having a significant impact on Irish tourism.

Visitor numbers from Britain have decreased by 7.1% for the first eight months, compared to the same period last year. The UK, Ireland’s largest source of inbound tourists, accounts for over 40% of all visitors, providing the widest regional and seasonal spread.

For now, strong performances by the US and domestic markets are helping to offset the significant fall-off in business from the UK. The majority of hoteliers reported an increase in US business this summer, while almost six in ten said domestic levels are up.

Business levels from these markets look set to remain buoyant for the remainder of the year with many hoteliers (52%) saying advance bookings from the domestic market are up with increases from the US (43%) as well as Germany (26%) and France (19%). However, over half say future bookings from Northern Ireland are down, while nearly two thirds see a drop in advance bookings from Britain.

The general outlook for industry over the next 12 months remains positive, according to the survey, although hoteliers’ optimism has been dented. Most say the weakened value of sterling is already affecting their business and Aidan Quirke, Chair of the IHF’s south-east branch says the uncertainty around Brexit poses a real threat to the tourism industry, with regional tourism likely to be hit hardest. Tourism currently supports 3,000 jobs in Kilkenny and contributes some €83 million to the local economy annually.

“Many of the consequences of Brexit are largely outside our control, so it is imperative that we mitigate the risks and potential damage where we can," he said.

"We are calling on the Government to take the necessary steps to protect Irish tourism and to avoid any changes in policy that would weaken our sector’s ability to deal with the risks it faces due to Brexit. The 9% VAT rate for tourism, in particular, continues to deliver enormous benefits to the exchequer by making us more attractive as a tourism destination."