Ireland’s reputation as a country with sub-standard roads, riddled with giant crater-like potholes, is a thing of the past.
Bad roads are no longer a deterrent when it comes to overseas visitors planning a holiday in Ireland, tourism leaders have been told.
While 20 per cent of potential visitors surveyed in 2002 indicated that the condition of the primary and secondary routes was a significant issue, that figure had dropped to just four per cent in another survey conducted this year.
Tourism Ireland’s Marketing Director, Mark Henry, told the Let’s Talk Tourism forum in Killarney that there has been a 15 per cent growth in visitor numbers over the past 15 years and while travel agents were the main booking preference in 2002, there has been a 32-fold increase in the number now opting to book online.
In terms of activities there is a huge growth in walking and cycling tourism but old favourites like angling tourism are “dead in the water”, Mr Henry said.
When pressed of the disadvantages of visiting Ireland, 25 per cent of potential tourists cited bad weather.
Fáilte Ireland Chief Executive, Paul Kelly, told the forum that there was “massive untapped potential” for visitor numbers from Asia, the Gulf States and India and they are seen as major growth areas.
“We have not even scratched the surface there yet,” he said.
Mr Kelly said the tourism industry is worth €12.4 billion, it generates 100,000 jobs and it leads to a €1 billion tax take per annum but Ireland needs to increase its bednights capacity from 200,000 to 300,000 in the next 10 years to meet expected demand.
Infrastructure also needs to be improved as, the Fáilte Ireland boss stressed, visitors do not want to be spending long periods of time in traffic in Adare or in Killarney at the height of the season.
Interestingly, Mr Kelly noted that 70 per cent of Ireland’s tourist trade is concentrated in about 30 per cent of the landmass but, he added: “If we reach our targets there will be growth everywhere but we also need to keep growing the likes of Killarney, Galway and Dublin”.