Irish tourism expected to see 80% drop in business this year due to coronavirus

Tourism Ireland has said the market here can expect an 80% drop in business this year.

But its boss, Niall Gibbons, said the €4bn to €5bn the Irish public would have spent overseas presents an "opportunity" to the sector here.

He said there is no clear return to free movement across Europe at a time when the high season would normally begin.

Mr Gibbons said: "Sixteen states in Germany are all moving at different speeds in relation to lifting quarantines. Austria, for example will open their borders with certain countries, not others.

"So, the European project has become a little bit frayed, so to speak, airline are still trying to get back into the sky, but the UK which has a very big tourism market where they would have about 70 million trips abroad in a typical year, the airlines are struggling to get going for the summer season."

Mr Gibbons told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh that, globally, the livelihoods of over 300 million people are "on the line."

Some 1.4 billion people took trips around the globe last year, which he said is now down to "a trickle".

He predicts that Ireland's tourism numbers will be down "about 80%" for 2020.

The industry now has a roadmap for the future, which is good because that gives a sense of hope and confidence and some capacity to plan.

"But it has to be said - not just Ireland, but when you look across the globe and across Europe - different jurisdictions are working at different speeds with regard to this, and when planes can get back in the sky.

"I think people are doing their best, the industry has pulled together very well.

"The Government and ministers have listened very carefully to what's going on, but there is a realisation that the tourism industry was the hardest to be hit and will probably be the longest one to recover."

He said several businesses associated with the tourism industry have collapsed in recent days.

"In the last 48 hours alone we've seen the likes of Hertz car hire in the United States file for bankruptcy after 100 years in business.

"And a big company that wouldn't be a household name here: Sherrings Travel and Wallance Arnold - who put a lot of business into Ireland - has collapsed on Friday evening with the loss of thousands of jobs in the UK after 100 years in business.

The implications here are profound, there is a major health issue here that we have to deal with.

"I think the roadmap that we have is a very solid one, but there are a lot of moving parts at the moment in relation to this".

He said he is hopeful of a recovery, but in the longer-term.

"If you go back to the global financial crisis 10 years ago, we were trying to recover 30% of our business then - it took five years to do that.

"So you can get a sense of there's no v-shaped coming on this one".

But he said the domestic market could see an uptake as less people travel abroad - "and hopefully then as we head towards the latter part of this year into next year, we can start to see the recovery in relation to the international side".