I’m here at the Irish Hotels Federation in Dublin, where we’ve been looking at the future of hotels, hospitality, and the travel industry.
Tourism in Ireland is worth 7 billion Euros. We’re talking about 200 thousand jobs, around 4.5 percent in terms of GDP, that’s if you include all those who work in hotels, guesthouses and associated industries. So it’s a really important part of the Irish economy which is why this morning, we had a government minister open the conference. We have another government minister this afternoon and we have the Prime Minister of Ireland tonight. And Ireland has seen, despite the downturn, some really encouraging things happen.
For example, in 2013, there was a huge national and international marketing initiative called ‘The Gathering’ which, promoted people who were Irish, or have Irish connections around the world to come back and enjoy a gathering with festivals, with family members, with their ancestral heritage, with whatever pulled them most. And they saw overseas visitors up 7 percent; U.S. visitors were up 15 percent. There were, as a contribution of tens of millions of Euros to the Irish economy through the gatherings. There were over 5 thousand different gatherings and festivals rules and things that took part of that whole gathering phenomenon. Now it would be a struggle to follow that but already plans are in place to do something similar in five years time.
Now, if we look back to the situation in terms of hotel construction before the Crash, from 2004 to 2008, was around a 33 percent growth in the number of hotel rooms that were made available across the Republic of Ireland. We’re talking about around 6 thousand, 8 thousand new rooms, but demand only rose 13 percent. So there’s been a glut of capacity, there’s been a big overhang of debt inside their hotel industry and so on. 70 percent of these beds are filled each night by people who are from Ireland and 30 percent come from outside the island. But things are changing. If you look on the streets of Dublin today, if you were, let’s say, trying to organize a big corporate event then you may struggle to find 200 rooms on a particular date. Competing with all kinds of other events and festivals and things like that. So occupancy is coming back, which is really very encouraging.