THE hospitality industry in Cork has raised serious concerns over tourism performance this year.
According to the latest national industry survey from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), 57% of hotels have seen a fall in overall business levels compared to this time last year.
Compounding this, hotels and guesthouses have also voiced their concerns about Brexit, which could have a further detrimental effect on the industry.
The figures are particularly concerning for Cork where there are massive expansion plans for the hotel sector, including proposals for several new hotels in the city centre.
Some 78% of hotels across the country have seen a fall-off in business from the UK compared to last year while 60% report a decrease in business from Northern Ireland. Risks associated with Brexit have resulted in 73% re-examining investment plans and taking a more cautious approach for next year.
Whilst the tourism business from North America and the domestic market were stronger, results were very mixed.
Commenting on the statistics, Irish Hotel Federation Cork branch chairman, Neil Grant, said: “Irish tourism has been one of the great success stories of the economy in recent years, supporting 270,000 jobs and promoting balanced regional growth across the country.
“Here in Cork it supports 25,300 jobs and contributes some €895m to the local economy annually.
“However, we are now at a crossroads and facing a number of pressing challenges including serious risks associated with Brexit, increasingly high costs of doing business in Ireland and ongoing difficulties in attracting visitors to the regions and extending the short tourism season.”
He urged the Government to assist the tourism business, asking for a restoration of the 9% VAT rate.
In last year’s budget, the Government increased the tourism VAT and as a result, Ireland now has a higher rate of VAT on tourism accommodation than 27 countries in Europe.
Ahead of the UK’s departure from Europe on October 31, Mr Grant said a ‘no-deal’ outcome could have devastating consequences:
“Brexit is particularly challenging in light of our heavy reliance on visitors from the UK, which is even more pronounced for regional tourism businesses.
“A ‘no-deal’ outcome would cause enormous difficulties for the hotel sector, creating the prospect of a drop of over 10% in tourism revenues from UK visitors and a decline in Irish consumer sentiment, which would have a knock-on effect on domestic tourism activity.”