Domestic coastal and marine tourism could help to “reboot” a sector which has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report by NUI Galway (NUIG) finds.
“Marine-active” holidaymakers tend to stay longer and spend more than the average visitor, the study of domestic tourism by NUIG’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) says.
Total expenditure by domestic tourists in coastal areas was estimated to be €698 million in 2018, which represents 35% of the total expenditure by domestic tourists that year, the study says.
The marine-related activity expenditure on overnight trips is estimated to have generated revenue of €381 million, with €172 million of this being spent on water-based activities.
The study found that average expenditure per coastal day trip in 2018 was €95, and the equivalent for coastal overnight trips was €310.
A survey for the study found that the most popular land-based coastal activities were walking/running along the coast/beach/cliffs/, beach or seaside trips, and coastal sightseeing.
The most popular water-based activities were sea swimming, surfing, recreational boating of different types and sea angling.
It notes that “significant differences in participation rates were observed across a number of socio-demographic classifications, including age, social class and education attainment levels”.
The results also indicate that domestic tourists undertake the majority of their marine activities on the west and south Irish coasts.
The authors argue that “given the observed differences in marine activity... across the social classes”, a “worthy policy objective would be ensuring that all sections of society can access.. the well-being and mental health benefits”.
. “Given the current crisis this is more important than ever,” the authors state.
“It also offers an opportunity to develop new marine tourism offerings focused on the expanding consumer demand for wellness services and products,” they state.
Dr Stephen Hynes, director of SEMRU and co-author, said that while the results predate the impact of the current pandemic, they “highlight the economic contribution that domestic marine tourism and leisure activity makes under normal circumstances to coastal regions, particularly those regions outside the capital”.
“Also, given that it is likely that the overseas tourism market will take much longer to recover, and Irish residents’ travel abroad will also be curtailed, the industry should be examining how they can maximise the return from the domestic tourism market this year and next,” he said.
Commenting on the report, Prof Alan Ahearne of NUIG’s Whitaker Institute noted that the World Tourism Organisation is forecasting that international tourist arrivals could plunge 60-80% this year, and “may remain at depressed levels next year”.
“Tourism in Ireland will be looking to domestic demand for recovery - and the evidence points to the huge potential for coastal and marine tourism to contribute to rebooting activity in this sector,” Prof Ahearne said.
Download the full report from NUIG below as a PDF