It is an indisputable fact that Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit economic sectors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
An industry that had been worth €9.2 billion annually, and supported one in ten jobs nationally, has been utterly devastated by both Covid-19 and rolling lockdowns. Initial estimates for 2021 identify that – even though the sector has haltingly reopened in recent months – the value of the tourism economy will be down a whopping 74% on 2019 levels.
And it might be worse again in Dublin. Whereas the west coast and Wild Atlantic Way benefit from domestic tourists looking to enjoy a staycation, the Capital city has long since depended on international visitors who are in short supply this year. Since mid-July, and the lifting of the ban on non-essential travel, international visitors have slowly been making a return but only in modest numbers. Air access into Dublin Airport has been massively reduced and getting planes up in the sky again is critical not just to the airport and aviation sector but also to the city’s tourism industry.
Back in 2017, in a pre-Covid world, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar committed to doubling Ireland’s global footprint by 2025. He boldly stated that Ireland would be “an island at the centre of the world” and the growth in aviation connectivity at Dublin Airport made that claim very credible indeed. Sadly the pandemic has put a stop to such an ambition – whether it is a temporary pause or a permanent halt depends on the Government’s attitude and commitment to international connectivity.
Despite the recent mauling for Dublin’s tourism industry, there is hope.
According to a recent report by property advisors Savills Ireland, 24 hotels are currently under construction in Dublin. This will add a further 2,400 bedrooms to Dublin’s hotel stock by the end of 2023 meaning that there will be significant capacity to enable recovery and growth. In fact supply will outstrip demand for some time but that can only mean really excellent value for the visitor thereby further stimulating interest.
Crucially though, as an island-nation, air access is critical and Ireland currently lags well behind the rest of Europe in the recovery of its international traffic. To that end there has to be a huge economic focus by Government to incentivise airlines to add new routes, increase frequency, and grow capacity. Dublin Airport had become a key strategic hub between North America and the European Continent and it must strive for that once more.
With strong airline access, and a tourism sector that remains competitive, the future can be bright once more.