Global changes, economic volatility and massive shifts in tourist behaviour have impacted holiday spending habits.
It's vital for Irish hotels and restaurants to stay up to date with major trends, so we have some top tips to help you keep up - and avoid missing out.
In headline terms, 2018 is looking good for Irish tourism. By the start of June, overseas visitor numbers had increased by 7.6%, which meant an extra 273,300 customers . Tourism bosses are hopeful that by the end of the year, spending will have jumped from €5.78 billion to €6 billion for the island of Ireland.
Tourism Ireland has prioritised mainland Europe and North America — and it seems to be paying off. There's been more than a 12% increase in visitors from these territories, with sharp rises among German tourists (+25.6%) and Italian visitors (+16%) . And despite the poor Euro exchange rate, UK visitors are slightly up too.
If anything, visitor numbers could reach new heights this summer. Dublin Airport has 14 new routes. This creates more than 1.7 million extra seats – 8% greater capacity than last year . For example, this August, there could be 446 flights per week from 16 locations in the US and Canada .
Direct flights between Ireland and China have now started, too. Last year, an estimated 70,000 Chinese visitors visited the island of Ireland. But Tourism Ireland aims to grow Chinese visitor numbers to 175,000 per year by 2025 . In particular, Irish hotels and restaurants should make a note of Golden Week in their diaries: 1-7 October is a national holiday, when many Chinese like to travel and spend generously.
Research from Europcar found that 79% of tourists believe that visiting an Irish pub is an important part of their experience of Irish culture. In fact, even more tourists (93%) actually end up visiting a pub. For 18%, the taste of Irish Guinness was the highlight of a pub visit . Getting a warm welcome and listening to traditional music is a big draw, too.
Staycations are big business, too
The number of Irish people choosing to stay at home for their main holiday seems to be on the rise. Last year, the number increased spectacularly from 19% to 53%, as more Irish people want to explore new parts of the country .
Research shows that social media continues to impact hotels and restaurants. Good experiences shared by friends can really help, too. Google partner WebpageFX reports that 52% of Facebook users said their friends' photos inspired their own travel plans .
Paying your way
Whether your customers come from Ireland or overseas, more will be thinking about using alternative payment methods. Allowing all customers to use Apple Pay, Android Pay and other electronic wallets is a good move. And enabling overseas tourists to pay in their home currency, so they know exactly how much they're spending, is an even smarter idea for Irish hotels and restaurants, particularly as visitors from outside the Eurozone are on the rise.
Research shows that - more than ever - reviews are having a direct impact on takings in hotels and restaurants. Over half of holiday-makers now regard them as an accurate reflection of a destination, and a similar share would change a decision after seeing a bad review . Good experiences shared by friends can really inspire too. Google partner WebpageFX reports that 52% of Facebook users said their friends' photos inspired their own travel plans .
 'Tourism Ireland welcomes growth of +7.6% in overseas visitors' - Tourism Ireland
 'Britons claim the major portion of Ireland tourism' - Tourism News Live
 'Tourism Ireland scoops gold at travel awards ceremony in China' - Tourism Ireland
 'Europcar Research Reveals Insights Into Tourism Trends In Ireland'- Hospitality Ireland