Irish hoteliers say they are seeing higher booking levels this year than last but are struggling to hire suitably qualified staff to cope with rising demand.

The Irish Hotels Federation's quarterly barometer reveals that 72% of its members have reported an increase in bookings for the summer compared to last year. 

A similar number said their overall bookings are up year-to-date compared to 2013.

67% of hoteliers noted growth in domestic tourism and a rise in advance bookings from the UK (54%) and the US (45%).

With a more favourable outlook, 42% of hotel owners said they expect to increase their staffing levels over the next 12 months.

But 73% of hotel and guesthouse owners surveyed by the IHF said they are finding it difficult to recruit qualified entry level staff. This time last year that figure was 64%.

They also expressed concern about pressures on their cost base, citing "excessive" local authority rates. Local authority rates are the biggest single cost that hoteliers have no control over and the IHF has called for a 30% reduction on these rates to ensure Irish tourism's ability to compete effectively in both the domestic and overseas markets.