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Tourism chiefs say visitor numbers down despite positive CSO report

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TOURISM: Bernadette Randles Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation.

 

“Where are the people?”

By Sean Moriarty

Leading tourism operators in Killarney are asking “Where are the people” - despite official Government figures showing visitor numbers are on the rise.

Killarney hotelier Bernadette Randles, her Tralee counterpart Padraig McGillicuddy, and even Fáilte Ireland officials have all said that the industry faces a difficult season - despite official figures stating that visitor numbers are on the increase.

Figures released this week by the Central Statistics Office show that visitor numbers to Ireland are up by 3.4 percent to 1,061,800 - an overall increase of 35,400 compared to 12 months previous.

However, industry figures in Kerry dispute the findings and nearly every tourism related business that the Killarney Advertiser spoke to cited the Government’s decision to increase the rate of service industry VAT from nine percent to 13 percent -  which effects everything from hotels, cafes, even hairdressers – as the main issue.

“Food and beverage is definitely down,” Bernadette Randles, Chair of Kerry Branch of the Irish Hotel Federation, told the Killarney Advertiser. “We are absorbing these costs [like the increased VAT rate] but we are not taking on extra staff and we cannot invest in the future. We are managing costs, but we can’t put up our prices and we must still provide a service. Minister O’Donoghue (Department of Finance) says numbers are up and we are on target for 2020, but where are the people?”

The published figures reflect the number of visitors arriving in the country - but a more detailed examination of the report reveals that tourists are spending less time in the country and the number of nights spent in Ireland by overseas travellers decreased by 3.2 percent.

“While the CSO figures show growth in the number of overseas visitors coming to Ireland compared to the same period in 2018, it’s clear that the rate of growth is beginning to soften with some tourism operators also telling us that they are expecting business to be down on last year,” a Fáilte Ireland spokesperson told the Killarney Advertiser.

The figures also reveal that Irish people are spending more time on holiday abroad. Overseas destinations are cheaper and the awful Irish summer is forcing locals to find their sun fix elsewhere.

“Ireland remains a safe destination but so are other destinations that were off limits for a few years like Morocco,” Padraig McGillicuddy, PRO of the Kerry Branch of the Irish Hotel Federation, told the Killarney Advertiser.

“These destinations can offer a far more competitive price point due to cheaper labour, taxes and expenses. However, we are a resilient industry and will continue to attract people to our wonderful island.”

Uncertainty surrounding Brexit is also having a small effect; the CSO figures show a net decrease of 1.1 percent in the number of British visitors arriving in Ireland but this is balanced by visitors from other European destinations increasing by 1.8 percent.

Trips by residents from USA and Canada to Ireland increased by 9.1 percent - to 300,900, while trips to Ireland from ‘Other Areas’ increased by 10.7 percent - to 76,400.

Overall, tourism spending is down from €1,079 million to €1,029 million in the same period last year.

Regardless, it does not take a CSO survey to see that the streets of Killarney are much quieter this year compared to recent seasons and tourism operators in Killarney are feeling the pinch.

One business that knows a thing or two about visitor numbers to the town is Bird’s Amusements. The family-run funfair has been supporting Kerry festivals for 82 years, traditionally beginning their summer season in Killarney before following the local festival scene, first to Puck Fair, followed by the Rose of Tralee International Festival, and finally the Listowel Harvest Festival in September.

Dom Bird, grandson of the funfair’s founder, William, agreed that Brexit, the weather, and even the increased VAT rate, which applies to funfairs too, were all factors.

“This year is not going to be one of our best seasons,” Dom said. “But as my late father Buddy would say, ‘we never died a winter yet’.”

 

 

 

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Staff and students highlight important message

By Michelle Crean Local students went to great efforts on Friday last to highlight a very important message about inclusion. Staff and students in Killarney Community College came together for ‘Stand Up Awareness Week’ as part of a national campaign where second-level schools take a stand against homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. All staff wore […]

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By Michelle Crean

Local students went to great efforts on Friday last to highlight a very important message about inclusion.

Staff and students in Killarney Community College came together for ‘Stand Up Awareness Week’ as part of a national campaign where second-level schools take a stand against homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

All staff wore a rainbow colour and students wore rainbow coloured accessories to show their support for the campaign as Killarney Community College is a diverse, inclusive, accepting, and welcoming safe space for everyone.

The majority of students made a particularly great effort in terms of wearing rainbow coloured accessories were awarded house points.

During the week, the LGBTI+ flag was hanging proudly in the school canteen. Transition Years decorated the General Purpose area with informative posters, and in SPHE classes, students learned about LGBTI+ terminology and history.

“It’s important that school is a safe and inclusive place for anyone attending regardless of their race, sex, religion or sexuality,” Principal, Stella Loughnane, said.

“I’m delighted that our school community marked the occasion and brought great colour while highlighting a very important message. One of the key words of our mission statement is inclusion making this awareness day a very apt one.”

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Donation to be made in memory of Johnny Batt

By Sean Moriarty Spa GAA remembered one of their most loyal members this week when his beloved club donated to a Kerry charity. Club stalwart Johnny Batt Cronin, who was steeped in Spa GAA club history, passed away in September 2019 after a battle with cancer. An outstanding footballer, he won seven O’Donoghue Cup medals […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Spa GAA remembered one of their most loyal members this week when his beloved club donated to a Kerry charity.

Club stalwart Johnny Batt Cronin, who was steeped in Spa GAA club history, passed away in September 2019 after a battle with cancer.

An outstanding footballer, he won seven O’Donoghue Cup medals with Spa as well as a county Intermediate Championship medal in 1974 and a County League Division One title two years later.

He was also a member of the star-studded East Kerry divisional side that won the inaugural All-Ireland Club Championship in 1971.

When he hung up his boots, Johnny trained and coached many underage teams and was honoured with a hugely deserved lifetime achievement award by his beloved Spa GAA Club in 2015.

He was also a champion card player, winning the Spa Championship of Kerry 31 Card Drive on two occasions.

After his passing, Spa GAA wanted to run a 31 Card Drive in his memory and to raise funds for the Oncology Department in University Hospital Kerry.

The Card Drive was postponed on several occasions due to the pandemic – and while some of the earlier rounds were completed by early 2020 – it was not possible to complete the competition that has now been cancelled completely due to ongoing crowd gathering concerns.

“A number of teams had entered this Card Drive competition (two people per team) and it started in early 2020 and most but not all of the early rounds did get played,” club PRO, Deirdre O’Sullivan Darcy, said.

“When COVID-19 hit they delayed the next stages of the competition.”

Nevertheless, teams had paid entry fees and it was decided to handover the funds raised to the Comfort for Chemo charity at the Oncology Department in University Hospital Kerry.

Members of the organising team met this week to reveal the winners of spot prizes had the event gone ahead. The money will be handed over next week to the charity when the final amount is totalled.

“They kept delaying and postponing but at this point have decided to cancel it completely and make the donation for the money that was collected at the time,” added Deirdre.

WINNERS

The prize-winning teams are:

€100 voucher for the Great Southern Killarney: John Kerins and Tim McCarthy
€100 voucher for the Great Southern Killarney: Con Lynch and Alan Cronin
€100 voucher for the Great Southern Killarney: Finbarr Godfrey and Tim Regan
€50 voucher (each) for Killarney Carpet & Furniture Centre: Seanie Kelliher and Connie Doolan
Bottle of whiskey and bottle of wine: Peter Cahill and Barry Duggan

The club also thanked event sponsors: Skellig Hotel Dingle, Kennelly’s Pharmacy, Hegarty’s Spar Muckross Road, Daly’s SuperValu, Killarney Oil, O’Leary’s Electrical, Paul Herlihy Contractor, Liam Chute, Killarney Oaks Hotel and Bowler’s Centra.

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