Ireland is facing its worst tourism slump in more than ten years as a result of the attacks on the U.S. and the foot and mouth crisis which hit earlier in the year.
Tourism Minister Jim McDaid promised to do whatever possible to minimize the adverse impact on the industry, as he released the statistics for the second quarter of the year. Between now and the end of December, it was expected that an estimated 320,000 Americans would visit Ireland, but now a figure of 100,000 is seen as optimistic.
In 2000, some 6.3 million foreign visitors to Ireland were recorded, boosting tourism earnings to 2.9 billion punts, and it was hoped to increase that number by five per cent this year. A new marketing campaign is being started by the tourism board, Bord Failte, in a last ditch attempt to persuade Americans to travel.
But it is not only the tourism industry that is being affected. The downturn in the economy is being felt in every sector, but most noticeably in the IT sector, where American multinationals have dominated the Irish marketplace. A number of prominent U.S. companies have announced job cuts, and the computer giant Gateway is closing its entire plant before Christmas. Intel has stopped construction work on its new premises in Kildare and has let go all contractors and part-time staff. It also introduced an early redundancy policy to wipe out jobs.
A leading economist has predicted that 10,000 jobs could be lost this year in the technology sector. And in America, Brendan Walsh of the Smurfit School of Business said the outlook for the Irish economy is more somber than it has been in ten years. ♦