Tourism Ireland is to boost its spending next year by more than a quarter to €45m in an attempt to attract more overseas tourists to Ireland. 

The sector is facing competitiveness issues on numerous fronts, with a Brexit-linked fall in the value of sterling putting pressure on operators here, while a hike in the VAT rate for the hospitality sector will kick in from January.

Tourism Ireland's 2019 campaign, 'Fill your Heart with Ireland', will be rolled out in over 20 markets from January. The chief executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said the Irish tourism sector will finish this year "very strong" with revenues up 10% to €6 billion for the first time. Tourism Ireland's new campaign will launch next month in the US, Britain, France and Germany, and from January will be rolled out in over 20 markets. 

On the main potential growth markets for Irish tourism, Mr Gibbons said that North America has shown incredible growth over the last number of years. "We've seen the number of visitors from North America - the USA and Canada - double from one million to two million over the last six years, and the revenue from that market is almost €1.8 billion." He added that Great Britain "is very large by volume but by spend about €1.45 billion".

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However, the Tourism Ireland head said the "star performer of Irish tourism for the last decade" has been mainland Europe with the region contributing around €1.2 billion to Irish tourism this year. 

Brexit and the weaker sterling that has come with it has made Ireland much more expensive for British tourists over the past two and a half years. "Value for money is the watchword as we head into 2019. We have to watch, particularly in urban areas, that we don't get ahead of our competitors. We do find that Dublin, for example, is more expensive than competitor cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen and we have to be very mindful because we'll lose market share very quickly," he said. 

"Market diversification is also very important and we've been on that journey since before the Brexit vote, so we have seen markets like North America and mainland Europe receiving higher investment from Tourism Ireland because visitors stay longer and spend twice as much," he added. 

Mr Gibbons also stressed that although the EU has approved the Brexit deal, "we're not out of the woods yet. Only this morning EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This is the only deal possible. So, if the House (of Commons) says no, we would have no deal."

Fáilte Ireland's Paul Kelly estimated recently that a hard Brexit could bring a €400m hit to the Irish hospitality sector. Niall Gibbons says a no-deal scenario still presents "a very real risk" for Irish tourism.
He added we need to be "prepared to flex our plans. We have had a Brexit taskforce in place in the UK for the last two years, monitoring and keeping a watching eye on consumers' reaction to Brexit. "But for now this plan is predicated on a deal, getting it done - if that changes then our plan will change," he added.

MORNING BRIEFS - Swiss-Irish food group Aryzta recorded a welcome 0.3% revenue increase in the three months to October to €862m. It comes as the company, which owns Cuisine de France, is in the midst of a cost-cutting programme as it attempts to reduce debt and restructure. Earlier this month Aryzta shareholders narrowly approved a €790m share issue to shore up the company's balance sheet.

*** Online sales for Black Friday in the US rose by more than 23% to over $6 billion when compared with last year, while on Thanksgiving sales grew by 28% to $3.7 billion. Transaction data from 80 of the top 100 US retailers also show in-store sales fell by up to 7% on 2017 figures.

*** Eight out of ten legal firms here have no Brexit plan in place, according to a report by professional services firm Smith & Williamson. The study also found, that of the Top 20 largest law firms, more than two thirds identify competition from UK firms opening offices in Dublin post-Brexit as a threat to their business.

*** Fáilte Ireland says the 1,500 international conferences its ambassadors have brought to Ireland since 2009 have generated over €760m for the economy. The tourism body's figures indicate that each conference delegate who comes to Ireland is worth around €1,600.