Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport, Tourism and Sport Robert Troy TD has warned that the tourism industry is facing a monumental challenge as Brexit approaches.

Deputy Troy made the comments after hosting a roundtable conference on tourism earlier today at the Titanic Hotel in Belfast.

The conference brought together a number of organisations, including Hospitality Ulster, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland and the Restaurants Association of Ireland, to discuss the challenges that the tourism sector is facing as Brexit approaches.

Deputy Troy said, “The tourism sector right across Ireland is especially vulnerable to the challenges posed by Brexit. Visitors from the UK account for the largest share of our tourism industry with approximately 3.6m people visiting Ireland from the UK in 2016.

“Visitors from the UK are especially important as they tend to visit a broader range of destinations across the country rather than concentrating their travel in popular locations. A sudden, sharp fall in the number of UK tourists visiting Ireland will have a detrimental impact on our tourism industry and will be felt right across the country.

“Today’s roundtable discussion focused on the need to identify new markets for our tourism industry and increase the number of visitors from the EU and other regions. Minister Ross has been far too complacent in this regard to date. The tourism industry simply hasn’t received the level of Government support that it needs to help diversify our industry and reduce our over reliance on the UK market. The failure to enhance the marketing budget for the tourism industry has been a key failing by Minister Ross to date.

“There are also concerns surrounding the impact that Brexit will have on the tourism labour market. The UK Government has indicated that post-Brexit, EU workers will not receive preferential access to the UK labour market. This could result in a significant shortfall in the number of workers required in the hospitality industry in the UK. This would have an impact on Northern Ireland, with a recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee predicting a shortfall of 30,000 workers in the sector. Those operating in the tourism industry have pointed out that the problem is being exacerbated as working permits are too difficult to arrange in a timely manner.

“Serious concerns have also been raised surrounding challenges to the aviation sector post-Brexit. The liberal aviation regime that currently exists could come to an end leading to a severe reduction in the number of flights travelling to and from Ireland. This will have a devastating impact on the tourism industry.

“There has been much discussion surrounding the need to support the agriculture and food sector post-Brexit alongside small to medium sized enterprises. However the tourism sector has been largely absent from this discussion. The Government needs to recognise the challenges facing the tourism sector and ensure every support is made available to help the sector prepare for Brexit,” concluded Deputy Troy.