DUBLIN, Ireland – Ireland has more national data on the movement of cows than it does on tourists who contribute almost €6 billion a year to the economy, hoteliers have claimed.
Remarking that the EU insists on agriculture statistics, but no such strictures are applied to Ireland’s biggest employer, the hoteliers said the lack of available information on where tourists go within Ireland was seriously damaging to their ability to plan their businesses.
Speaking as hoteliers gathered in Killarney for their annual conference yesterday, Irish Hotels Federation president Michael Vaughan sharply criticised policymakers for a “lack of insight” and the Central Statistics Office for a lack of data.
He said 61% of hotels and guesthouses expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of Irish tourism information provided by the Central Statistics Office.
The industry is particularly concerned at the sizes of sample surveys which typically number just a few thousand visitors spread throughout eight million visitors. The federation has called for more frequent and larger surveys and wants to see more targeted marketing campaigns to emerging markets. It also wants to see moves put in place to encourage visitors to spread out to the regions. A fourth requirement was better efforts to attract business tourism, such as conferences.
Mr Vaughan told The Irish Times there was concern that while there has been a slight increase in tourist numbers, the visitors are remaining in the principal urban tourist attractions or coming to cities for event-specific purposes.
Last year the hoteliers proposed a government training scheme for up to 3,000 long-term unemployed people for jobs in the industry, but Mr Vaughan said it was not progressed by policymakers.
“With unemployment at over 14% nationally, the labour-intensive tourism sector has an as yet untapped potential to play an even more important role in job creation,” he said. “Part of the problem is that tourism doesn’t receive the prominence it should at a national level, the way the agriculture sector does – again due largely to a dearth of statistical insights available.”
Mr Vaughan said clearer statistics would also provide insights for marketing campaigns and help to ensure more targeted use of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland’s €100 million marketing budget.
“We’ve raised our concerns with the Government already but progress has been slow to date. Without the necessary resources and tools for proper planning, we will continue to lack the in-depth insights that would enable us to transform the way we market Ireland both at home and abroad. Until then we’re feeling around in the dark to a large extent.”
The Irish Hotels federation conference which takes place today and tomorrow is to be addressed by Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar, who has also expressed a desire for relevant data.