War in Europe may stunt the recovery in US visitor numbers to Ireland

One of the economic unknowns of the conflict in Ukraine is the impact it may have on international travel in 2022.

For Ireland’s tourism industry the war’s potential to stunt the hoped-for post- pandemic recovery in the numbers of US visitors here is a worry. Americans are well known for becoming more about foreign travel during times of conflict.

A recent survey in the US by travel marketing agency MMGY has suggested that the war in Ukraine is causing many US tourists to have second thoughts about planned trips to Europe this year.

It found that 31 per cent of those surveyed cited worries over Covid as a concern that might influence their travel plans. But double this number, 62 per cent, cited concerns over the war spreading to other European countries.

The war in Ukraine could not have come at a worse time for Irish tourism officials. Last week, as Russia’s tanks were rolling across the border in attack, Tourism Ireland was launching its push the Green Button campaign in the US.

The €8.5 million marketing drive in key US cities is aimed at convincing Americans to visit Ireland this year. St Patrick’s Day this month is the first big event in the calendar for US tourists to Ireland.

Prior to the pandemic the US market was worth €1.6 billion to Ireland’s tourism industry and it was growing quickly.

US visitors stay longer and spend more in Ireland than visitors from any other source market. A significant recovery in their numbers was already priced into forecasts for the sector in 2022.

However, Forbes is now reporting anecdotal evidence from travel agents in the US who say there has already been a “small but noticeable” rise in cancellations in trips to Europe because of the war.

That ought to have red warning lights flashing on the dashboard of Irish tourism officials. If the war becomes more widespread in the region, US tourists will stay home in droves.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo