'Dublin needs 50 new hotels', says tourism director
Irish tourism can expect another great year in 2017, but the industry has warned that Brexit and a lack of hotel beds in Dublin could be challenging.
The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) welcomed this year's record number of 8.8m overseas visitors, most of whom visited or passed through Dublin, but added that 50 new hotels were needed in the city.
According to ITIC, tourism is now worth more than €8bn to the Irish economy.
Chief executive Eoghan O'Mara Walsh welcomed the new highs for the industry, but stressed that dozens of new hotels would be needed for the capital alone to keep up with the demand.
"There has been virtually no development of hotels in Dublin in the past five to 10 years," he told the Herald, pointing to the impact of the financial crash.
"There are a lot of hotels in development at the moment, which is to be welcomed. However, these hotels will take about two or three years to construct."
Mr O'Mara Walsh added that the impact of the Brexit vote could still pose problems, with weakened sterling an immediate challenge.
"With Article 50 due to be triggered next March, we expect sterling to remain relatively weak," he said.
"It makes holidays in Ireland seem more expensive for British visitors."
However, Mr O'Mara Walsh remained optimistic for 2017, pointing to a strong market for north American visitors.
"Brexit is the main challenge for 2017, but we are still predicting a 3pc to 5pc growth in visitor numbers next year," he said.
Overseas tourists spent €4.7bn in Ireland this year.
The domestic market was also strong, with revenue increasing to €1.75m, and €300m came from Northern Ireland visitors.
ITIC also urged the Government to commit to the creation of 50,000 new jobs in tourism and increase tourism export earnings by 50pc to €7bn by 2025.
Mr O'Mara Walsh said the quality and competitiveness of Irish tourism was key to this year's gains.
He warned against taking success for granted and called on the Government to act to sustain growth in the sector.
Meanwhile, a Red C poll found Irish citizens are least likely to vote to leave the EU.
Eighty per cent of Irish people would choose to stay in the union, while 62pc believe it is going the right direction.