THE loss of the Shannon stopover has seen a significant decline in US visitor numbers to the Mid-West, according to a report by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation.
According to the report, which is entitled New Directions For Tourism in the West, the Mid-West “has predictably lost share of North American visitors in post-open skies era, with about one in every three North Americans now spending at least one night in the region, compared to one in every two a decade ago. The region attracts a 12% share of North American holiday nights.”
It also found that the West of Ireland is finding it hard to attract visitors from Europe. “The western seaboard’s share of the expanding European markets has fallen sharply over the past decade, from a 70% share of bednights spent in the country in 1999 to an estimated 54% last year. This loss of share of the fastest growth market for Irish tourism over the past decade is especially worrying. While a number of factors may have contributed to the loss of share, including shorter trips, the increasing appeal of Dublin and limited convenient direct air services to the West, reversing this trend from what is expected to be the future growth market for Ireland represents a particular challenge.
“The decline in share of North American bednights spent in the western seaboard area has also been steep, in large part a result of the switch from Shannon to Dublin as the principal port of arrival for Americans coming to Ireland. The West’s share of holiday visitor bednights in Ireland from other longer haul markets, principally Australasia, is currently estimated at below 50% – a sharp loss of share over the past decade.”
The report found that seven in 10 overseas holidays visitors to the West arrive into the country via the East coast. These holidaymakers account for four-fifths of overseas holiday bednights in the west of Ireland.
It found that those visitors to the west who arrive at Shannon are more valuable than those who come to the west via Dublin. “The data suggests that those arriving into a western gateway are more valuable as they spend more time in the area. The share of overseas holiday visitors to the western seaboard area is disproportionately higher than the share of capacity on offer at these airports. For example, Shannon handles 6% of summer capacity to/from Irish airports but is the gateway for 19% of holiday visitors to the West.”
Michael Vaughan, president of the Shannon Region branch of the Irish Hotel’s Federation said the report highlights failures in aviation policy. “Really, what it shows is an abject failure in relation to aviation policy because principally, the tourist numbers migrated from arriving in Shannon to arriving in Dublin,” Mr Vaughan commented, adding that road and rail infrastructure then improved between Dublin and Galway at a faster rate than between Dublin and the Mid-West making travel to the West more attractive.
“The drop in European figures can be directly related to the loss of the European charters in Shannon as can the American drop. The one drop that can’t be explained is the loss of the UK and worryingly this report cannot point to any remedy of that situation,” he added.