IRELAND will be seen as a tourist ‘safe haven’ for overseas visitors worried about the attacks in Paris last year, the head of Tourism Ireland has said.
Speaking to a Stormont committee of Westminster MPs, chief executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said: “I think the geo-political situation is far more volatile than it was this time six months ago. We have seen the attacks in Paris and difficult situations in Brussels and North Africa.”
While reiterating his point that a volatile situation in other parts of the world was not something to base Ireland’s tourism marketing on, Mr Gibbons said it should be a matter of consideration.
He was speaking to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee were at Stormont as part of their inquiry into the tourism industry north of the border.
Tourism Ireland is the all-island tourism board, which aims to promote both the North and the Republic overseas.
And Mr Gibbons spoke of how these tragedies have shifted tourism trends for visitors to Europe.
“In a strange way what that has done in terms of international tourism trends – since the Arab Spring started we have seen tourism traffic pushed from North Africa and southern Europe up towards northern European countries,” he said.
“Actually northern European countries have actually made gain shares.
“And what we are possibly likely to see this year is Ireland being seen as a more safe haven type destination.”
The MPs heard from other experts in the tourism industry about the North of Ireland’s viability as a holiday destination.
One of the major issues up for discussion was the rate of VAT paid by tourism providers in the North of Ireland which, at 20 per cent, is much higher than the Republic’s 9 per cent.
The committee heard how bringing these rates in line with each other would benefit the island’s tourism as a whole.
Levels of tourism on both sides of the Irish border have been boosted in recent years, with discussions underway in Dublin at the moment on the possibility of building a new runway to deal with the higher levels of flights.