The Chinese tourist market has been the fastest growth area for Irish tourism over the past five years.
IHF president Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said the Chinese market might take a short term hit this year.
“We have been making a big push into China. In 2014, we had just over 30,000 Chinese visitors to this country and this trebled to over 90,000 by 2017. We were expecting in excess of 100,000 visitors from China this year with the projection is that this figure will go to 175,000 within five years.
“Many Irish hotels have been part of the Fáilte Ireland and Irish Tourism Board initiative ‘China Ready’. This involves promotion of Ireland in China as a holiday destination. Hotels have invested a lot in getting involved in this marketing push into China and worked in creating a Chinese cultural awareness within their hotels and among hotel staff.”
However, she said the hotel industry will now have to prepare for the worst. “We are in the unknown right now, but we have to to prepare ourselves for the scenario that there will be very diminished if any visitors at all from China this year.
“However, like all these things, the coronavirus will pass and the work we have done in marketing Ireland in China will pay dividends in the years to come as the Chinese market will come again.
“China is the largest outbound tourism market in the world and Chinese visitor numbers here have been growing at a phenomenal rate and many of these visitors would be regarded as high end spenders.”
Ms Fitzgerald Kane said the loss of Chinese visitor revenue will come at a particularly bad time with hotels still grappling with a Vat hike from 9% to 13.5%.
She said the IHF is in ongoing dialogue with the Department of Health and Department of Tourism on getting best advice no how to deal with the current alert.
“Our chief executive, Tim Fenn, has been talking to our European counterparts on how hotels in affected areas were dealing with the corona issue and measures that are putting in place when an issue arises.
“We feel information is critically important and that is why we have a very open channel with regards to getting best practice from the Department of Health and also to getting the most up to date information on what hotels are doing throughout Europe.
“As I said, keeping all our members up to speed on the measures that are being taken elsewhere.”