Tourism industry needs joined-up thinking

THE pressing need for joined up thinking and linked promotions between the tourism industry in the north and south of the country was emphasised at the AIB Let’s Talk Tourism forum in Killarney.

It doesn’t make sense for a county the same size as Scotland to expect international buyers in the industry to attend two separate promotional events – Meithal in the Republic and Meet The Buyer in Northern Ireland – and steps must be taken to organise just one show which rotates around the country, Chairman of Visit Belfast and Managing Director of Hastings Hotels, Dr Howard Hastings, told delegates.

Referring to tourism development and boosting business, he said: “Some of our tourism hubs, like Westport and Kinsale, who have led the way on joined-up tourism at a local level, will confirm that there are no quick fixes. However, if we can replicate on an all-island scale a little of what they have produced for their regions, a sizeable prize awaits us.”

On the subject of Brexit, the managing director of Hastings Hotels said contrary to forecasts from “doom mongers”, the tourism economy has powered ahead since Britain voted to leave the EU.

“In July to September this year, in the aftermath if the Brexit result, there were three million arrivals to the island of Ireland. That is up 10 per cent on last year,” he pointed out.

“September itself was 10 per cent up so the rate of growth has not slowed and growth has been from every region.”

Dr Hastings said even if a slowdown from Britain is feared, the momentum from other markets is undiminished with Benelux up 27 cent, Spain and Italy both up 12, and France increasing by seven per cent.

“Our highest yielding market, from North America, was up 15 per cent in the first nine months of this year,” he noted.

“There is the risk that we become obsessed with the fall in the value of Sterling.

“Without doubt, global terrorism, the Brexit referendum and US election result have made the world a more uncertain place – let’s not be putting ‘afraid to do business’ on our risk registers,” Dr Hastings remarked.