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Friday 20 September 2019

Tourism 'will weather the choppier waters Brexit brings'

The Guinness Storehouse is our most popular paid attraction
The Guinness Storehouse is our most popular paid attraction
Failte Ireland boss Paul Kelly. Photo: Don Macmonagle

The Irish tourism industry is heading into "choppier waters" as a result of Brexit, Failte Ireland boss Paul Kelly has warned.

His agency said at least 10,000 jobs in the sector are at risk if a crash-out Brexit scenario materialises.

The potential loss of more than a million British tourists a year could result in a €380m annual hit to the industry.

Mr Kelly said tourism is facing "challenges" with Brexit and is "certainly into choppier waters" than it was a year ago.

However, he said he believes the industry "will weather that" and "we will get back into long-term growth".

He was setting out Failte Ireland's strategy for growing tourism in rural areas while speaking at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford.

Mr Kelly said Failte Ireland will leverage all of the regions at its disposal, citing its main brands of Dublin, Ireland's Ancient East, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Hidden Heartlands.

He said these are "key ways to get growth and spread regional benefits".

Mr Kelly said Failte Ireland is also working to extend the tourism season into spring, autumn and winter as it is "very hard" to have a sustainable business focused on the summer.

He said the organisation had a "comprehensive Brexit response programme" and is working with the industry to mitigate its effects "as much as we can".

"Tourism's value to the economy is as an industry that exists in many parts of Ireland where no other sector thrives," he said.

Tom Enright, the chief executive of Wexford County Council, said Brexit was putting a particular focus on Rosslare Europort, which needs investment.

He said the loss of the Irish Ferries route to France last year "had a big impact".

Cruises

Mr Enright said he hopes it is restored next year, and expressed an ambition for it to become a destination for cruise ships.

He added that he believes Wexford needs more hotels and to boost international tourism, saying there is great potential in the Chinese market.

"People want an experience, they want something memorable and they want something that's Instagramable, something they can take that iconic photo of and send to their friends and family and say, 'I've been here'," he said.

The boss of Ireland's most popular tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse, was asked how key attractions could drive the growth of tourism in rural Ireland.

Paul Carty said tourists want a nice hotel and great products, but there is another main thing on their agenda.

"They want great experiences, and that's a bigger motivating factor," he said.

"The culturally curious want to come to Ireland because we have the most amazing cultural heritage, both built and natural products in this country."

Last month, the Guinness Storehouse was once again named as the most popular top paid attraction.

It brought in 1,736,156 visitors over the year.

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