Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (86)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

183 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the latest CSO figures which suggest that while domestic holiday trips were up 10%,, nights spent in guest houses and bed and breakfasts fell by 9.4% and self catering and rented houses fell by 16%; his further views on whether these figures are related to high prices charged for stays, or high costs for the tourist industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25509/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I welcome the overall results of the latest CSO household travel survey for the quarter to the end of June, which show an increase of 10% in the number of domestic holiday trips and an increase of 16% in expenditure over the same quarter last year. This level of performance is encouraging given the competitive challenges facing the Irish tourism industry and the attractive alternative holiday offerings available to the Irish consumer.

The CSO statistics also show variations in the level of performance among the different categories of accommodation providers with increases in the number of bed nights in the case of hotels, caravan and camping sites and own holiday homes and reductions, to which the Deputy refers, in the case of guest houses bed and breakfasts, self-catering and rented houses. Extreme caution should be exercised, of course, in interpreting trends over such a limited timeframe. While price is always a consideration in holiday choice, variations in performance in the case of these statistics may be more indicative of emerging changes in market share among the different accommodation categories, related to such factors as changing consumer tastes and variations in supply levels. Whereas significant additions have been made in recent years to the supply of hotel rooms, I understand that the number of approved bed and breakfasts has been declining at an annual average rate of 10%.

I had a very useful meeting with representatives of the Town and Country Homes Association, the largest representative group of approved bed and breakfasts, on 12 October during which the association committed itself to reviewing its product and marketing positioning in the light of changing consumer trends. For my part, I indicated my strong view that the bed and breakfasts product was an important and integral component of the Irish holiday experience, in particular to visitors from overseas, and gave an assurance that support would continue to be available through the State tourism agencies to strengthening the capability of the sector in the future.