Over half of businesses in the Irish tourism sector have reported increased visitor numbers this year compared to 2022, according to the Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer for May. The return of overseas visitors, particularly people from the US, has given operators much hope this year. The barometer shows that 53% of businesses have had more visitors to date this year compared to last year, with only 21% saying their numbers are down. The highest proportion of businesses where visitor numbers were reported to be up on last year were found among Dublin businesses, at 71%.
Up to 56% of the businesses surveyed said they are seeing an increase in visitors from North America, with Fáilte Ireland saying there are “promising signs” from mainland Europe but that the British market is “stagnant”. While the return of overseas visitors is a positive for the industry, the domestic market is also up on last year, especially amongst attractions, up 55%, and hotels, up 48%. However, businesses are concerned that increased visitors are not necessarily equating to improved profitability.
The barometer shows that 38% of operators have seen their profits improve so far this year, but 39% have seen them decline. In the food and drink sector, 55% stated that they are expecting profits to be down this year. Only 43% of all hotels say profitability has increased despite 70% of them saying their average room yield has gone up. The main concern for businesses relying on tourism remains rising costs, with 75% citing rising energy costs as their primary issue. Rising costs other than energy, as well as people lacking disposable income, were also cited as concerns.
Despite the increasing costs, Fáilte Ireland said there are reasons for people to be positive, such as demand remaining “buoyant” particularly from overseas. Some 56% of businesses expect to have more visitors in the remainder of 2023 compared to 2022. In spite of cost pressures, 41% cited ‘investment in the business’ and 40% cited ‘own marketing’ as reasons to be positive. The Failte Ireland Tourism Barometer is based on a survey of both the accommodation and non-accommodation sector. There were 806 responses, the largest of which came from the attractions sector and the hotels sector, with 128 and 124 responses, respectively.
Restaurants are the exception, as 51% of owners expected visitor numbers to decrease. On top of escalating costs, restaurants say that finding staff remains a “significant challenge in this sector”, with 71% citing it as a concern. “Concerns in most sectors are less about visitor volume and more about making ends meet,” Fáilte Ireland stated. Overall, Fáilte Ireland is expecting the number of visitors to increase across all tourism sectors this year compared to 2022.