Ireland's largest tourism trade workshop, Meitheal, gets underway at the RDS in Dublin tomorrow.
Shaun Quinn, chief executive of Fáílte Ireland, says the tourism fair brings together about 300 of the largest buyers of tourism and travel across the world to meet with about 500 Irish companies. The event has been going for the past 40 years but continues to be very successful and is one of a number of platforms Fáilte Ireland is running this year. Mr Quinn says the focus is really on the 2016 season and he adds that the reaction from the market place to Ireland's tourism offering is very strong at the moment, with reaction from the key UK and US markets particularly strong.
Tourism chiefs had been predicting a good season before the weakening of the euro, and its weakness against sterling and the dollar will only boost the tourism season here, Mr Quinn explains. Increased air access to Ireland is also boosting tourism and Mr Quinn reckons there is 9% growth in extra seats to the country from aboard, with 6% from the UK, 8% from Europe and 16% from the US. "We are an island nation, you are going to fly here or float and so connectivity is everything," Mr Quinn states.
Research conducted very year shows that in essence, visitors here are very happy with the Irish tourism product, including the key "warmth of the welcome" and prices. Mr Quinn says that ratings of poor value are down to 6% compared to 41% in 2007, which reflects what the industry has done over the past few years. He says he believes that while the tourism gains are sustainable, the industry can not be complacent. He says that while the VAT reduction for the sector has been key, it was especially good for businesses outside of Dublin, which continue to struggle. The fact that the recession made businesses cut costs has also been a huge factor in the gains for the tourism industry here, he adds.
MORNING BRIEFS - The pace of growth in construction activity picked up in March after four straight months during which the rate of expansion had been slowing. That is according to the latest Ulster Bank purchasing managers' index. The growth reflected a rise in both commercial and house-building activity and also signified a rise in new orders which, Ulster Bank chief economist Simon Barry, said should also underpin activity levels in the months ahead.
*** Ibec's outlook for the Irish economy in 2015 is the most optimistic yet among the organisations which produce regular research and forecasts for Ireland. Its prediction of 5.4% expansion in annual economic output or GDP is markedly higher than the 3.9% average forecast according to DKM's economy watch. Ibec was the most accurate of the 13 organisations monitored by Economy Watch last year - including the OECD, the Department of Finance and the EU. Most accurate, however, is a relative term when applied to economic forecasts. This time last year the consensus growth forecast among the 13 was 2.2%. Ibec was predicting 2.9%, while the actual outturn for 2014 was 4.8%.
*** Economic growth in China, the world's second largest economy, is very dependent on trade but new figures this morning show exports were 15% lower than in the same month last year. That surprise fall meant China's trade surplus, the gap between the value of its exports and the value of its imports, was $3.1 billion in March. Forecasts were for a trade surplus just north of $45 billion.
*** Half a million Irish people grind their teeth during their sleep. But a team of Irish researchers has invented an intelligent mouth guard to monitor that grinding and help dentists to monitor it more effectively. Selfsense, a spin-out from the materials science centre at Trinity College Dublin, has secured €100,000 from the National Digital Research Centre and expects to bring the mouthguard to market in Autumn.