Ireland could generate as many as 74,000 tourism jobs by 2020, industry insiders claim.
The Irish Hotel Federation (IHF) estimates that Ireland would need around 10 million visitors per year in order to create and sustain such a level of employment in the tourism sector. But is this possible?
Last year there were 7 million visitors to Ireland. To reach the 10 million figure, the industry requires a year-on-year growth rate of 6 per cent. It might sound optimistic, but it is also plausible: the number of visitors to Ireland last year showed a 7.2 per cent increase on the previous year.
However, according to the view expressed by IHF President Stephen McNally in the Irish Independent, sustaining that kind of growth requires funding. Creating and promoting an image of Ireland as a highly desirable place for tourists to visit is a costly enterprise, yet since 2009 Tourism Marketing Fund's resources has been reduced by €10 million.
Mr McNally also believes that investment in the tourism infrastructure in Ireland is essential to delivering a quality holiday experience for overseas visitors. He suggests that a sum of around €30 million would help realise initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way driving route (a 2,500km coastal drive from Donegal to Cork), which would regenerate tourist numbers in inaccessible or out of the way spots.
He calculates that bringing in an additional 3 million visitors to Ireland would effect a revenue stream of €540 million per year, and would bring the number of people in tourism employment up from today's figure of 196,000 to 270,000 by 2020.