Investment of €200m planned for Cork hotels

ITIC chief executive Eoghan O'Mara Walsh said investment in Cork and the regions was "critical to growth" for tourism, especially in the context of Brexit

Some €200m is being invested in new hotels and extensions in Cork that will see more than 1,300 new bedrooms.

That is according to research commissioned by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), which said Government had to match the level of private investment in tourism in the regions post-Brexit.

The research, carried out by commercial real estate services firm CBRE, said there were seven new hotels that had been granted planning, with 996 bedrooms in the combined group.

There are five extensions planned, with 318 bedrooms. One hotel is in the pre-planning process, with 100 bedrooms.

ITIC said it estimated investment of around €200m in the hotels that had been granted planning in Cork.

In Galway, there are five new hotels that have been granted planning for a combined 349 bedrooms, while a further 79 bedrooms are on the cards for seven extensions greenlit by planners.

There is one hotel in the pre-planning process in Galway that aims to have 200 bedrooms, the research said.

ITIC chief executive Eoghan O'Mara Walsh said investment in Cork and the regions was "critical to growth" for tourism, especially in the context of Brexit.

"Cork is the gateway to both the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East with great air access at Cork Airport. The wider region is critical to Irish tourism so it is great to see multi-million investment by the hotel sector to cater for future growth," he said.

Mr O’Mara Walsh said Irish tourism’s success "must be enabled by Government" and that "pro-competitiveness policies need to be pursued".

He said there was a feeling among tourism businesses that there was a "drift" from Government when it came to policy focus, and that it would most impact the regional economies.

"Fáilte Ireland did a study on a hard Brexit and estimated that it would cost Irish tourism €390m. Add the Vat hike with a hard Brexit and you are talking about upwards of €1bn impact on tourism.

"Budget 2019 did see an increase in tourism budgets of €35m but this is small fry compared to costs imposed on the sector in the same budget – even with the increase, tourism budgets are only back to 2008 levels. That is a long decade of under-investment.

"Regional Ireland’s biggest employer is tourism and its full potential is not currently being tapped into despite industry investment and efforts," Mr O Mara Walsh said.

Despite vociferous protests from the industry, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe restored the 13.5% Vat rate in the Budget, up from 9% introduced at the height of the recession.

Proponents of the Vat hike said it had more than served its purpose, pointing to average hotel room costs at pre-Celtic Tiger levels when it was restored.

ITIC was also emphasising the need for Cork's long-mooted events centre to be built, Mr O'Mara Walsh said -- echoing calls from the Irish Hotels Federation, Vintners Federation and the Restaurant Association of Ireland in Cork, who said it February that growth in the region was being "impeded" by its uncertain status.

The project at the former Beamish & Crawford brewery site on South Main St has been beset by delays, seen public investment almost double, and costs soar from €53m to just under €80m in four years.

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