Last week’s Northern Ireland Big Travel Trade Event, which NI Travel News combined with its golf day, attracted a lively gathering. A showcase by operators in the morning was followed by a Dubai Tourism tent in the afternoon offering henna tattoos, samples of Dubai cooking and an insight into the attractions Dubai has on offer.
In the morning there was a series of breakout sessions, including two from ABTA – one an update and panel discussion on ATOL reform and how it is settling in, and the other on the tourism mix, outlining the interesting research that ABTA has done into the value of outbound tourism.
Another session entitled ‘Travel Talk’ had panellists Doreen McKenzie of Knock Travel, Uel Hoey of Belfast International Airport, and Mukesh Sharma from McNeil Menary Travel answering questions relevant to travel out of Northern Ireland and to NI tourism – which triggered lively discussion from the floor.
ABTA highlighted the findings of a report it commissioned from the Centre for Economics and Business Research that shows outbound travel directly contributes over £420 million to the Northern Ireland economy, representing 1.5% of NI GDP. With the inclusion of contributions made by industries supplying the sector, the total economic impact rises to over £776 million, or 1.9% of NI GDP.
In addition to this economic contribution, the outbound sector makes a significant contribution to jobs in Northern Ireland, accounting for nearly 18,000 people in full time employment, which is equivalent to 2.7% of the full time NI workforce. When taking into account jobs that are reliant on supplying the industry, the sector accounts for over 27,000 full time jobs or approximately 4% of the NI workforce.
The figures highlight that the industry sustains a larger number of jobs than its economic contribution alone would suggest (1.5% GDP v 2.7% jobs). Outbound travel also tends to be very customer-focused, with jobs relatively difficult to replace with technological or mechanical alternatives and supporting jobs that require a strong range of skills.
The research was commissioned as part of a report by ABTA to obtain an accurate picture of the outbound sector’s contribution to the UK economy, which is often inaccurately portrayed as only making a negative dent on the UK’s trade deficit versus domestic or inbound tourism. Overall the study shows that the outbound sector contributes over £22.1 billion to the UK economy.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, said: “Many people falsely assume that going abroad means money taken out of the Northern Ireland economy. This report proves conclusively that that is simply not the case. It shows that the outbound sector is a vibrant and healthy contributor to the NI economy and a significant source of jobs and employment. With this in mind, the Government must recognise and support outbound travel in its current and future policies and planning strategies to deliver growth to the wider economy.”
The full report can be downloaded at abta.com/DrivingGrowth