Self-Catering and Ferries are the keys to a successful 2023 Irish Tourism Season.
The Irish Tourism Industry foresees many challenges entering 2023 as it becomes clear that the model of accommodation being provided by hotels and transport by the airlines is in trouble. The business slump caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the continuing risks of further viral infections, and the humanitarian need to accommodate refugees from Ukraine, taking up 28% of mid-priced hotel beds and an increasing number of asylum seekers from elsewhere, has left the Irish hospitality business significantly short of hotel accommodation, airports congested, and hire cars in short supply. Added to this is the sudden arrival of cost inflation that challenges tourists’ budgets and threatens to make family holidays in Ireland unaffordable.
The effects of these difficulties are most pronounced in locations away from Dublin and a lack of tourists staying in local hotels will mean a significant drop in incomes for restaurants and pubs, activity centres, and cultural centres.
Changes in Connectivity to Europe
Over the past few years, family tourism in Europe has been shifting from being hotel based to an independent traveler model staying in various forms of self-catering accommodation and using their own cars to visit several locations in one trip. For visitors coming to Ireland from continental Europe, there has been a lack of direct ferry services, so the most practical option has been to use the landbridge across Great Britain. Brexit has forced Irish-based exporters and importers to divert business that would have traditionally been done with Great Britain to Continental Europe while also seeking out Supply Chains for EU traffic that avoid the British Landbridge. For most Irish businesses this transition has been successfully achieved and overall business volumes continue to increase.
A key factor here has been the development of new and improved direct ferry services linking Irish and continental ports. While several such services are operated using freight-only vessels, the majority of the service improvements have been done using vessels operating in mixed freight and passenger modes.
The travel restrictions that have been in place throughout the Covid pandemic have now been fully lifted, and the ferry companies are now able to develop the passenger traffic on these services. In the main, their target market is the holiday-making family traveling with their own vehicle laden with all the gear they need to cater for themselves and enjoy their favorite activities while abroad. The contention of this blog is that the interests of the Irish Tourism Industry, the Self-Catering segment of that industry, and the Ferry Companies are closely aligned.
A meeting on the EU STR Agenda in December 2022 concluded that data on the STR industry is essential. It underlined its determination to promote sustainable tourism, taking into consideration all the key dimensions of economic, environmental, cultural, and social sustainability, in response to, among other factors, climate change and loss of biodiversity, in accordance with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its commitment to support tourism that creates sustainable jobs and promotes local culture, products, and services. Travel by ferry is more economical and sustainable as EU tourism reboots after the Covid-19 pandemic.
How Can Opportunities be Exploited
- To secure committed backing from the ferry companies the Irish self-catering holiday accommodation industry must be able to demonstrate a consistent level of quality both of premises and service provided by the owners and managers. This can be demonstrated by securing a verifiable quality standard. The ISCF Quality Assurance mark meets this standard.
- Each premise should be registered within an Irish and European format. Such a scheme should be in place in early 2023.
- An owner-developed online booking system would be a prime requirement to enable the ferry companies and the property owners to monetize the opportunities in the best manner. The ISCF “Let’s Go Self-Catering” site could be developed to achieve this objective.
- The development of the whole project will require not only a high level of commitment by all parties involved including significant financial backing from Irish Tourist Development Agencies.
Ferry Companies Plans for 2023
The ISCF blog sets out the plans of the ferry companies for the 2023 summer season as available on 1st January 2023. The information does not go into granular detail on the services but seeks to provide an overview and a basis for discussion and further work with interested parties.
One such detailed issue relates to the evolution of private passenger vehicles from being petrol or diesel-powered to the use of natural gas or electric power and the requirement at ports and at locations along tourist routes for refueling facilities. The importance of this requirement is underlined by the fact that over a quarter of cars being sold in the EU are EVs or are powered by LNG.
Conclusion – Projections for 2023
The 2023 season will be another stormy year for tourism in Ireland. The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) in December issued its estimates for the volume of international visitor arrivals in 2022. They estimate that 7 million international tourists came to Ireland in 2022, a 73% recovery compared to the pre-pandemic peak of 2019. ITIC estimates that 2.6 million came from mainland Europe, down 28% in 2019, 2.4 million came from Britain (-30%), 1.5 million came from North America (-22%) and 0.46 million came from long haul markets (-32%).
Due to the much larger volume ferry companies will provide in 2023 we expect many more self-drive tourists who will want to stay in self-catering, caravan, glamping, or camping rather than in hotels. There will be many more EU tourists driving their EV cars, and expecting a quality infrastructure for charging their cars – which does not presently exist.
The Registration for STR being introduced by the Irish Government with no clear detail on planning requirements for STR owners in RPZ areas is a serious stumbling block. The number of tourism beds being removed from the market due to long-term contracts with refugee agencies and the threat to remove up to 12,000 self-catering units from the Irish offering in 2023 will have a negative impact on the rural economies. There are many downstream businesses such as shops, attractions, pubs, restaurants, and cultural experiences that will be hit particularly hard. Fáilte Ireland data shows that for every €1 a tourist spends on accommodation, €2.50 is spent on ancillary tourism services.
There is a need to retain the 9% Vat rate will support local businesses and needs to be retained according to Economist Jim Power and he stated that ” the government’s current plan to reinstate the 13.5% from 1 March 2023, I estimated that the increase in Vat would add 4.1% inflation to accommodation and food services and cost 24,000 jobs”.
Tourism is the major industry in many parts of rural Ireland with 67% of employment in West Cork provided by the sector, according to Christopher O’Sullivan TD. In the Wild Atlantic Way region, Self-Catering is the greatest provider of accommodation, and this has spread across rural areas in recent years. Due to RPZ legislation, much of the Self-Catering accommodation in urban areas has been lost to the market in recent years. The sector needs to be supported to develop accommodation offerings quickly. This will be facilitated by clear guidelines for owners and managers of STRs and allow all existing businesses to continue providing a great service.
Self-Catering in all its forms provides employment with every 2 units equivalent to 1 full-time job, for every €1 spent on Self-Catering up to 8 times more is spent in rural communities and over 67% of money spent by guests are in the community rather than on the accommodation. Tourism as an industry is worth €9.2 billion annually, with over 9.68 mil international guests staying in 2019. It will be 2026 or 2027 before we reach the number of tourists we had in 2019, and the way these tourists holiday in Ireland will be different from that year.
Holiday in Ireland in 2023 you need to:-
- Book your Self-Catering accommodation for 2023 early on LetsGoSelfCatering.ie directly with owners or via local agents.
- Book your car hire at the time of booking accommodation or bring your own;
- Get out and enjoy all the views, great towns and villages, activities, and visitor attractions and have fun in Ireland.
- The Scenery is amazing, the roads are exciting and the welcome of the Irish people is warm and friendly.
- Have a Sustainable Self-Catering holiday in Ireland where you can eat the best of local foods,