STAFF shortages and inflationary pressures are two of the greatest threats to the speedy recovery of the €9 billion Irish tourism industry from the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
he revelation came as key tourism operators and agencies met in Kerry for a trade event aimed at boosting the recovery of the tourism and hospitality sectors after two years of lockdown-related losses.
Meitheal is a trade event which aims to showcase Ireland for international holiday operators – and over 500 firms and agencies attended or were represented at the lavish seminar in Killarney.
Tourism Minister Catherine Martin said Ireland was open for business and there was an international demand for the high-quality tourism product offered here.
She said the Government had heavily backed the tourism sector and Ireland had developed a sophisticated offering for international visitors.
Tourism agencies were now working overtime to promote Ireland as a destination with the campaign boosted by the arrival in Dublin of the first cruise ship of the season last week.
The Green Party minister also said that post-Brexit tourism would be very important for Ireland as evidenced by the recent visit of Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
“We have to remember that the British market is one of our most important markets – we are looking at boosting our tourism recovery and showcasing a lot of Irish gems from food production to lifestyle holidays.”
Ms Martin said it was clear there was a significant pent-up demand for quality tourism offerings such as those marketed by Ireland as holidaymakers were starved of international travel for two years.
In Kerry alone, tourism generates €661m annually and employs some 14,000 people.
Per capita, Kerry boasts the highest rate of hotel beds in Ireland.
Ireland’s tourism industry is worth €9 billion and employs more than 260,000 or one in ten people within the entire economy.
Fáilte Ireland chief executive Paul Kelly said Ireland was working hard to attract visitors from all overseas markets.
The full benefits of the Meitheal event will be felt from 2023 onwards – though the current season is critically important as a building block to long-term recovery.
However, tourism operators acknowledged that recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic faces challenges including the loss of key staff to other sectors over the past two years, difficulty in recruiting personnel with specific skill sets and the inflationary pressures being felt across all sectors of the economy most especially in relation to heating and travel costs.
The ongoing war in Ukraine is also an issue of concern amid fears any further escalation of the conflict could impact wider Europe travel and tourism.
Airport bodies warned that Irish facilities may not return to pre-pandemic passenger numbers for between two and three years even before Russia invaded the Ukraine.
However, Ireland has benefitted from strong booking levels on the core North American market with the expansion of the number of direct flights expected to boost the number of US holidaymakers opting for breaks in Ireland over the coming months.