Killarney is the economic engine for Kerry
Killarney has evolved to become an international must-visit destination and it is unquestionably the economic engine for the rest of the county, Fáilte Ireland Chairman Paul Carty has said.
Over 55 per cent of visitors to Killarney also spend time in other parts of Kerry and towns, like Dingle, Kenmare and Tralee, really benefit from the spin-off, he told the attendance at the Kerry Skal President’s dinner in Killarney at the weekend.
Mr Carty said the role played by tourism in the county should not be underestimated as the industry supports over 3,500 jobs in Killarney and over 7,000 in the rest of Kerry.
He said the hard work put in by tourism professionals in Killarney over the years is paying off and when Fáilte Ireland surveyed hundreds of domestic and international tourists, at the height of the season last August, they couldn’t speak highly enough of their experience with 97 per cent saying they were very satisfied.
“The national figure is 90 per cent so Killarney is actually seven per cent higher than the national average and that’s truly exceptional,” he said.
The Fáilte Ireland chairman said his organisation is acutely aware of the challenges that Killarney has faced in recent years and the challenges it currently faces and every support possible will be provided to help.
Mr Carty said Fáilte Ireland last year launched a destination and experience and development plan for Killarney, in partnership with industry stakeholders, and that will see the town reach its full potential through sustainability and the development of year-round tourist attractions.
“We will give the visitors more reasons to visit, more reasons to stay and compelling reasons to visit in the off-peak which will lengthen the season and provide more sustainable jobs, with a focus on the luxury and family market,” the tourism body chief stated.
Mr Carty acknowledged that the current trading environment is very difficult and he said one of the things that keeps him awake at night is a concern over the availability of hotel rooms with over 25 per cent of rooms around the country already full or not available.
“From a humanitarian point of view, the Government had to do what they did and I commend them and I think they are doing a brilliant job on that but the consequence is the fallout for tourism and particularly pubs, restaurants, visitor attractions, retail and others.
“They say for every one euro spent on accommodation €2.50 is spent on the peripheral businesses,” he added.
Mr Carty said costs were also a big concern with energy bills, in particular, going through the roof and putting businesses under serious pressure.
He said while there is a huge demand in the American market to holiday in Ireland in 2023, another issue was the lack of availability of golfing opportunities to cater for the demand in the five-star market and it is nearly impossible to get tee-times in courses around the country while the cost of car hire was also problematic.
Mr Carty said staffing was a serious problem for the industry as so much talent was lost during Covid.
“An awful lot of great people left our industry and they’re not coming back so there is a great shortage,” he said, adding that Fáilte Ireland was working hard to overcome the difficulties being experienced.
There has always been a problem locating chefs but now the staffing crisis is across the line with problems recruiting middle management, front of house staff, waiting staff and kitchen porters.
Mr Carty underlined providing value for money in the face of rising costs was essential going forward and that’s why it is “absolutely crucial” that the Government keeps the hospitality VAT rate at nine per cent.