On Wednesday, February 21st, Fáilte Ireland hosted the 2024 Industry Briefing. This online event was a great way to learn about the current challenges facing the tourism and hospitality sector and understand the available support. Over 1,500 tourism operators, providers, and employers from across the tourism sector tuned in to watch the live event.

The briefing unveiled Fáilte Ireland’s ambitious plans to drive sustainable tourism development across Ireland and support the decarbonisation of tourism businesses.

This year’s briefing coincided with the launch of the Tourism Barometer in January 2024, which highlights the results of a survey conducted into the various tourism sectors in Ireland. It allows businesses and tourism networks to get a better understanding of the needs, issues, and hopes of the industry in 2024.

Headline findings showed that most tourism businesses are predicting 2024 will be better than 2023, with 44% of respondents expecting an increase in visitors this year and 21% expecting fewer visitors. However, businesses are still reporting concerns about rising operational costs in 2024 with half of businesses saying the minimum wage increase will have a ‘significant’ impact on their payroll costs. The ongoing capacity constraints are also noted as a worry for 2024.   

Key Takeaways

44% of businesses expect to be up on visitors in 2024

Positively, 44% of businesses surveyed as part of the Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer expect visitors to be up in 2024. This figure reflects a sense of optimism and confidence in the industry’s prospects. An increase in visitors typically correlates with economic growth in the tourism sector. More visitors mean higher spending on accommodation, dining, transportation, and various tourist attractions.

52% of businesses in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands recorded an increase in volume in 2023 when compared with the year previous

The fact that a majority of businesses in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands experienced an increase in volume in 2023 reflects a positive trend of economic expansion, business confidence, job creation, revenue generation, and improved reputation for the IHH region.

Domestic individuals and couples staying for leisure are the most frequently cited main source of business in both tourism hotspot and non-hotspot areas

The preference for domestic individuals and couple travellers underscores the importance of local tourism trends. These travellers often seek weekend getaways, short breaks, or longer vacations within their own country. Such preferences are influenced by factors like convenience, familiarity, and a desire to explore one’s own country, highlighting the potential for sustained tourism activity within the domestic market.

Unlike seasonal or event-driven tourism, domestic individuals and couple travellers often exhibit year-round demand, providing a more stable source of business for tourism establishments. By attracting domestic travellers, both hotspot and non-hotspot areas have the opportunity to showcase their unique attractions, cultural heritage, and natural beauty.

Effective marketing and promotion efforts can highlight the distinctiveness of each destination, encouraging travellers to explore new places and fostering a sense of pride and belonging among local communities. Tourism East Clare will continue to tap into the domestic market and drive increased awareness of the East Clare region amongst domestic travellers.

Repeated visitors are cited as being a particular reason to be positive about the tourism season ahead

Repeated visitors indicate a level of satisfaction with their previous experiences in the destination. Their decision to return suggests that they enjoyed their previous trips and found value in the destination’s offerings. This loyalty is a positive sign for the tourism industry as it indicates that the destination has successfully met the expectations of visitors in the past, fostering trust and building a positive reputation.

Activity providers recorded a decrease in volume of business in 2023 when compared to 2022

Although many activity providers facing a decrease in business volume, they have demonstrated resilience by continuing to operate in challenging circumstances. Despite this, opportunities emerge for collaboration among activity providers to create mutually beneficial partnerships and packages that enhance the overall tourism experience of the region. By collaborating, businesses can tap into each other’s strengths, leverage complementary services, and unlock new avenues for growth and success.

49% of businesses are expecting an increase in overseas visitors in 2024

The expectation of more overseas visitors in 2024 reflects broader trends in the global travel industry, including recovery from the impacts of events such as pandemics, economic downturns, or geopolitical tensions. As travel restrictions ease and consumer confidence rebounds, travellers may be more inclined to venture abroad, seeking new experiences and destinations. The anticipated increase in overseas visitors signals a gradual return to normalcy and a resurgence in international travel activity.

Rising costs continue to dominate business owners’ concerns

As has been reported in all recent barometers, rising costs continue to present the most significant challenge to businesses. Whilst businesses were already under pressure from rising costs of energy, rates and insurance, the increase in minimum wage now adds to this cost pressure. Whilst operators acknowledge that some costs are due to macroeconomic factors and are beyond the Irish Government’s control, the pressure could be eased by keeping the VAT rate lower.

By providing insights into industry trends, visitor preferences, and business expectations, the Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer enables Tourism East Clare to make informed decisions that align with market demands and opportunities. Through a collaborative approach that integrates insights from the Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer into its planning and execution, Tourism East Clare can effectively position itself as a premier destination, offering memorable experiences and fostering sustainable tourism growth in the region.

To learn more about the insights and findings from the Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer, click here.

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