Tourism sector fears bed shortages due to refugee issue

The representative body for the tourism sector has warned that if the level of tourist accommodation being used to house Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers does not fall, it will have an enormous knock-on effect for the sector next year.

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) said nearly one in every four tourist accommodation bedrooms is currently being used to fulfill Government contracts and the number seems to grow by the week.

“While hotels and guesthouses are part of the solution to accommodate refugees, they cannot be the only solution,” said Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, the chief executive of ITIC.

Last month the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said almost 60,000 people from Ukraine or who had arrived here seeking international protection are now being accommodated by it.

A large number of these are staying in hotels, guesthouses or other tourist accommodation.

The department has predicted there will be a shortfall of 15,000 beds by December as arrivals remain at elevated levels.

“The tourism industry cannot be asked, to its own detriment, to be the primary provider of accommodation,” said Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, Chairperson of ITIC.

The organization said it will publish an analysis next week on the likely impact of these Government contracts will have on the broader tourism economy.

It will urge a more creative solution including modular housing, holiday homes, state buildings and vacant dwellings.

ITIC said it is also concerned about the impact soaring costs and the deteriorating global economic outlook could have on the industry in 2023.

Ms FitzGerald Kane said the problems could serve to halt the sector’s recovery.

She called for further assistance with energy bills from the Government and for the 9% VAT rate to be extended into next year.

ITIC made the comments as it published its latest monthly tourism dashboard which is compiled with AIB.

It shows that in October, international visitor arrivals were down 7% compared to October 2019 and down 19% year-to-date.

The Continental European market was the strongest performer during the month, with the key North American market also doing well, recording 196,000 visitors.

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