These days there are audible rumbles in the tourist hotspots, murmurs of doom and gloom while discouraging omens gather to cloud the season’s prospects. On a trip up the coast to Connemara last week, we stopped regularly for the usual coffees, leg stretches and walking tours – perfect opportunities to take the nation’s temperature at petrol stations and coffee counters.
“We just about held it together on the long and hard road from Covid,” said one B&B owner said. “But now, as we prepare for the return of foreign visitors, we have a terrible war that won’t stop anytime soon. It’s a perfect storm that will hit us all.”
St Patrick’s Day week has long marked the start of Ireland’s tourist season – a time when early omens predict the success or failure of the next seven months. While the last two hospitality seasons have been partially saved by Irish staycationers, it may not be a case of luck the third time for this sun-starved demographic.
“Everyone I know goes to France or Spain, anywhere there’s sun,” said a Killarney newsagent. “Covid has kept them at home for the last two years but at this point they would be swimming in the Bay of Biscay for almost two weeks.”
Foreign bookings, particularly from the US, were canceled after artillery shells fell on Kyiv and Mariupol.
“Americans don’t usually travel when there’s trouble, and they don’t really listen when you tell them Killarney is 2,000 miles from Kyiv,” said a hotel porter.
The second biggest concern in any cafe, pub or restaurant is the lack of staff. But what about the students, I asked, aren’t they traditionally the linchpin of the industry from June to September?
“Most of them can be found on supermarket shelves or summer internships in technology and pharmaceutical companies, they don’t want any more unsociable hours,” came the prompt reply.
If this is indeed the case, it will spell a sad loss in every Irish child’s student experience. The hours can be brutal and the pay can often be meager, but my own teenage days of clearing glasses, sorting bottles, and gently guiding drunks toward the exit rank among the finest insanities and friendships forged on the road to adulthood.
The workforce crisis has now reached boiling point as a recent survey by Fáilte Ireland found that 30 per cent of businesses could face closure if recruitment challenges are not resolved. To this end, the state agency created the Transition Year Work Experience Program.
With more than 50,000 transition-year students beginning to look for seasonal work, the industry’s opportunity for early placement offers a win-win solution for the months ahead.
And as for the summer weather outlook, here’s what a Liscannor trawlrmann prophesied: “Ah, it won’t be a bad summer, but it won’t be a great one either.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/tourism-under-threat-from-the-staffing-crisis-and-travel-fears-41468806.html Tourism threatened by staff shortages and fear of travel