Tourism could get back to full strength in Cork once all flights resume from Cork Airport. Photo: Janice O’Connell

Cork will rebound quickly

Cork’s tourism sector can rebound “pretty quickly” to pre-Covid levels once all flights resume from Cork Airport.

That’s according to Head of Visit Cork Seamus Heaney who has said Ireland is in a “very good place” in terms of tourism promotion.

Mr Heaney told the Cork Independent: “There's so much talk about pent up demand. That expression has been bandied about so often. I think Cork will rebound pretty quickly once all the flights resume. At the moment, the DAA says 83 per cent of all flights from 2019 will return by the end of 2022. Everything you've missed about Cork will be there when things reopen.”

However, he said 2022 will come with its own challenges and business tourism will take considerably longer to recover than leisure tourism. He also said Ireland will face a major skill shortage problem this year.

He said companies are struggling to find and retain talent.

In the hospitality sector alone, Mr Heaney said there are between 30,000 and 40,000 vacant jobs in Ireland.

“I think service will suffer and I think you'll have limited availability because of the staff crisis. You just have to compete with other sectors. Unfortunately for a lot of the tourism businesses, it's an employee market and they can all decide when they want to go and where they want to go. That's why I keep saying that the tourism industry was hit the hardest. You couldn't travel, you couldn't stay in places, you couldn't eat, you couldn't drink, and that's their core business,” said Mr Heaney.

He added: “Ireland was doing so bloody well in 2019. We were punching above our weight.”

Mr Heaney said people are still unsure of what restriction are in place in different parts of the world and people will only travel freely again when there is no “fear factor”.

He also suggested technology may not play as big a role in our future as some believe and that, from a business point of view, humans are tactile beings and need to meet and shake hands rather than speak remotely.

“As a human race, I still believe that people will want to move and will want to travel. I do believe virtual will have its place but not playing a major role in our lives,” he said.

According to Mr Heaney, a positive from the pandemic is that it has made businesses across all sectors more efficient and allowed time for real evaluation.

He said: “We were all so busy that you couldn't see the wood for the trees at times. It gave everybody a chance to look at things from a macro level rather than a micro level.”

Tourism Industry Day

Today, Thursday, will see Visit Cork’s first in-person Tourism Industry Day in 24 months. Taking place this morning at Fota Island Resort Hotel, the briefing is for everyone involved in the tourism industry and will be addressed by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

This is the first in-person tourism briefing to take place in Cork since March 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Anyone involved in tourism, or in attracting visitors to Cork, is invited to attend the event, from accommodation and experience providers to festival and event organisations. Attendees will gain an insight into Visit Cork’s recovery plans for leisure tourism (Pure Cork) and business tourism (Cork Convention Bureau). They will be joined by their partners in Fáilte Ireland and Cork Airport.