The Latest from Ireland — Affordable Hotels and Reduced VAT

While tourism numbers to Europe seems to be increasing steadily, not all countries are seeing increased visits. Ireland, for example, is still struggling to attract tourists—in fact, Kier Matthews, vice president of sales for Europe Express, told Travel Agent that the country's numbers fell two points between 2010 and 2011.

A recent study revealed that Ireland's hotels were among the cheapest in Europe: The latest figures from travel website Hotels.com (as reported on Irish business site RTE) listed the nation as the third-cheapest in the region. The article also notes that there are "sharp regional variations" within the Irish figures—for example, Kilkenny has the country's most expensive rooms at an average of €96 a night. Limerick is the cheapest destination at €64 per night. The average cost for a room in Dublin is €77, which is up 3 percent compared to last year.

According to the Independent, the continued stabilization of the Irish hotel sector in general—but the rise of the capital's fortunes in particular—comes on the back of increasing events and conference business.

In conjunction with lowering hotel prices, Ireland has extended the temporary reduction of its VAT through the end of 2013. From a previous of 13.5 percent, the new 9 percent rate offers lower prices at Ireland's restaurants and visitor attractions including museums, art galleries and music performances.

But even this may not spike visitor numbers immediately, Matthews warns: "I was asked last month if the lowering of the euro was driving business. I said, 'when the euro drops, the people who benefit are the people who are already booking. People don't see a decline and book right away…If you're not already on a plane headed over, you won't reap any benefits." Lowering of taxes and strong exchange rates rarely encourage travel, he adds. "The average consumer isn't monitoring it that closely. They pay attention one week before they go, but unless there's a dramatic drop, it doesn't make the news. People like us pay attention, but the general consumer doesn't."

If lowering of tax rates doesn't spur visitor numbers, upcoming events might: Next year, Ireland will launch "The Gathering" tourism initiative, a year-long series of events across the country to celebrate Irish heritage and culture. In addition to Ireland's regular calendar of yearly festivals and events, there will also be community-led events throughout the country. These include Kennedy Anniversary remembrances, music festivals, marathons, slow food events, heritage lectures and clan gatherings as well as exciting sport matches.

 

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