As the State exams drew to a close this week, Met Éireann issued a status yellow ‘high temperature warning’ for County Clare, with temperatures on Wednesday reaching between 26 and 28 degrees Celsius.
According to Met Éireann, the maximum temperature recorded at the Shannon Airport weather station on Tuesday was 25.8 degrees Celsius. By midday on Wednesday, temperatures had already reached 24 degrees and the warm weather is forecast to remain into the weekend, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday to each hit 20 degrees, though there will be some cloud cover.
This is not just good news for those out enjoying the fine weather but also for businesses here. “In Lahinch, every car parking space was filled,” Michael Vaughan, owner of Vaughan Lodge and former president of the Irish Hotels Federation, said on Wednesday afternoon.
“I see people parked on verges and the beach is thronged, so there are plenty of visitors to the area but I am not certain if this translates to an immediate spend in the area. Mid-week, people leave work early to come down and spend time on the beach and enjoy the sun but, at the weekend, people spend more as they are on their leisure time. I can’t say business is booming everywhere but certainly there are people around,” he continued.
The latest Fáilte Ireland survey shows tourism businesses are anticipating a busy and profitable summer season. Almost three-quarters (74%) of tourist interests expect an increase in business in the year ahead, according to the latest Fáilte Ireland Tourism Barometer, which was published on Wednesday.
The survey of tourism businesses, carried out in April and May, records business sentiment at a height not seen since the Celtic Tiger years. “We will all be expecting an increase in business this year. I think we might manage a 5% increase in trade year-on-year and that would be a super result for us all,” Mr Vaughan stated.
“There is general agreement that we seem to be getting closer to where we were in 2008 and, if we achieve that, we would be almost back to square one.”“Two things are really working in our favour in relation to this. One is the strength of the group tour market. Tours are holding up well around the country, especially in Clare. Hoteliers, who would have traditionally booked too many tours in because of the number of cancellations, are now finding that, on some dates, they don’t have enough room for the business they have,” Mr Vaughan added.
“The second thing is that people are really buying into the Wild Atlantic Way. On the ground, people are gravitating towards the coast and the signage that has come with the Wild Atlantic Way will bring a lot of benefit to places like the Loop Head Peninsula, where you are already seeing tourist numbers increase. Hopefully, over time, we can develop offshoots in the county with gastronomic routes and other inland routes and bring people inland to explore the county,” Mr Vaughan stated.
While many people go to the coast to enjoy the sun, there are economic benefits from the improved consumer sentiment for towns and villages around the county.
“The sunshine suits some businesses and not others. There is a tendency for some people to pack up and leave town but that is good for other business too. There is no doubt but the improvement in people’s spirit is good for everyone. There are swings and roundabouts and there are some businesses that will suffer right now but others will get a boost. The other thing is that when the good weather fades and I hope it is not today or tomorrow, the business that wasn’t done in the fine weather still has to be done, so it will come back,” said Paddy Darmody, president of Ennis Chamber.
According to the Fáilte Ireland survey, only 8% of businesses said they thought business would be down this year, compared to 74% in 2009.
By Nicola Corless