28 August 2015
By Bryan Smyth
A new report by economist Tony Foley, ‘the Contribution of the Drinks Industry to Tourism’, commissioned for the Support Your Local campaign has concluded that the hospitality sector is a significant component of the tourism infrastructure in Cork, with 975 pubs, 65 hotel bars and 275 fully licenced and wine licenced restaurants in the country. The Irish Pub was the number 1 tourism element influencing the decision of overseas visitors to come to Ireland.
In Cork, there were 1,228,000 overseas tourists in 2013, spending €433 million, highlighting the importance of the overseas tourism industry for revenues in the country. The report showed that overseas visitors to Ireland spend 21% of their holiday expenditure on food and drink, with 18% of overseas visitors using pubs in Cork City for meals and 19% using pubs in West Cork for meals.
The Support Your Local campaign is calling for excise tax on alcohol to be cut, stating that these taxes are damaging our competitiveness and costing jobs.
The new report was launched at a roundtable discussion featuring some of Ireland’s top tourist stakeholders ‘Opening Ours: Evolving Ireland’s Drinks and Hospitality Industry to improve our Tourist Offer’ in the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin today. At the discussion, Irish Whiskey tourism, the Wild Atlantic Way and the role of the pub were among the topics discussed.
Speaking about the report at the discussion, Mr Foley said that Ireland world renowned pubs are one of our top tourist draws, with many offering food and entertainment specifically for tourists. “The regional spread of the hospitality sector, with 7457 pubs across the country, also supports the geographic spread of tourism,” he said.
The report notes that the drinks industry has the potential to make a strong contribution to the success of the Wild Atlantic Way project.
“The drinks industry is also responsible for the direct provision of major visitor attractions like the Guinness Storehouse, Ireland’s No.1 Visitor attraction, which attracted 1,269,371 visitors in 2014, IDL’s Old Jameson Distillery and Jameson Experience Midleton, which attracted 410,000 visitors between them, and newer developments like the Killlbeggan Distillery and Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre offering new attractions outside Dublin,” he said.
Speaking at the event this week Paul Keeley, Director Business Development with Fáilte Ireland said:
“We believe that 2015 is shaping up to be a record year for Irish tourism with in the region of 7.7 million overseas visitors and a domestic market which is also performing strongly as consumer confidence recovers. This growth has been helped by a much sharper tourism focus on knowing what our customers want and how to get the message to them. Most importantly, tourism growth will be sustained – and reach 10 million visitors a year by 2025 – by having a number of attractive ideas of scale such as the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ and a rejuvenated Dublin brand that connects strongly with consumers. We need everybody in the sector working together to make these attractions work. Pubs and the Irish drink sector have a role to play here to make the visitor experiences on the ground authentic, compelling and memorable”.
Mr Keeley added that Fáilte Ireland’s teams around the country were already working with pubs and others in the hospitality sector to animate attractions such as the Wild Atlantic way at local level and he looked forward very much to working with more and more members of the industry for the benefit of tourism.
Alan Gielty, Gielty’s Clew Bay Dooagh and VFI County Chairman, Mayo discussed the impact of the Wild Atlantic Way for small business owners in the West:
“We know that pubs have always been an important infrastructure for tourism in the West as tourists explore our vibrant coast, but initiatives like the Wild Atlantic Way, that specifically aim to draw tourists here, have created brilliant opportunities for businesses in the area. We’re located directly on the route of the Wild Atlantic Way and already we have seen a huge uplift in our business, directly attributable to the project. I think the Wild Atlantic Way shows that there are clear opportunities for pubs and other businesses within the drinks and hospitality sector to work with Government agencies and make Ireland a great place to enjoy the scenery, as well as the entertainment, food and craic of a real Irish pub.”
Mr Gielty also discussed the growing interest in Irish Whiskey:
“With a boost in tourism, we’re also trying to meet the needs of tourists in the form of food and entertainment. There has been a growing interest in Irish whiskey and craft spirits in recent years. We’re the only pub in the area with a whiskey and gin bar in the moment and visitors love it.”
Ray Dempsey, General Manager of the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield, Dublin, said:
“Irish whiskey tourism is an integral part of Ireland’s tourism offering. Our Jameson brand homes in Smithfield and Midleton welcomed over 410,000 tourists last year. Ireland is the ultimate shop-window for our brands – it’s the home of Irish whiskey and it’s incredibly important that we keep Ireland at the heart of everything we do. Tourists come here to have an authentic, Irish experience and Irish whiskey is a key feature of that. From our perspective, government and its agencies have an integral part to play in developing Irish whiskey tourism. The 30+ new distilleries are going to need a lot of support as they get their projects up and running and our advice to Government would be to remove any unnecessary barriers that are going to slow down these projects.
“One of the major barriers that the whole industry experiences is that of the extremely high excise taxes that government charges on spirits in Ireland. Irish consumers and tourists visiting Ireland pay the 3rd highest excise taxes in Europe. This means that a tourist visiting from New York could buy almost 2 bottles of Jameson in New York for the price of 1 in Ireland. (Jameson 1000ml RRP: Ireland – €41.68, USA – €27, Germany – €25.10). We regularly receive queries from visitors wondering why it’s so expensive to buy Jameson here. In our view, this is the number one threat to the future of Irish whiskey tourism.”
Bryan Conlon, Trip Advisor Destination Expert for Ireland also discussed Irish whiskey tourism:
“It has been my experience that overseas visitors absolutely love our whiskey industry, even though many of them know very little about the detail of it. The bonus is that they also learn to love what is tacked onto that industry when they get here, our friendliness, generosity, sense of fun, not to mention the staggering beauty of our numerous wild beauty spots. They talk about it glowingly all the time. It makes me so proud of my country when they do.”