(Bloomberg) — It’s been a tough few years for Dublin’s pubs as the pandemic and inflation has wrecked profit margins and hit local demand. However, an influx of American tourists, flush with a strong US dollar and ready to spend, are likely to boost Ireland’s hospitality and travel industry from hotels and bars to golf clubs and visitor attractions this summer.
“A lot of Americans are starting to come because the dollar’s strong,” said Tom Doone, who runs The Merchant’s Arch in Dublin’s Temple Bar district. He’s expecting a busy tourism season — which traditionally kicks of with St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, he said.
Robin Lucas, a 33-year-old from Washington DC, is one such visitor. “It’s a lot easier to spend money than where I’m from,” she said, ahead of her first ever trip to the emerald isle. After a tour around parts of the country, she’ll celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the capital’s famed pub district.
With drinks prices also rising in major US cities, “going anywhere else is a lot nicer,” she added.
A steady flow of visitors from the US will help offset pub owners’ rising energy and food bills at a time when locals are contending with increasing costs of their own.
Diageo Plc recently increased the wholesale price of Guinness by 12 euro cents per pint, forcing many publicans to pass on the hike to customers.
Read more: Guinness Raising Pint Prices in Ireland, the Latest Blow to Pubs
“Our margins are being squeezed because we’re under pressure on all sides of the business,” said Alison Kealy, the owner of family-run pub Kealy’s of Cloughran in north Dublin.
Still, it seems cash-rich footfall may be just around the corner.
In Ireland’s capital, accommodation is already close to capacity. Dalata Hotel Group, the country’s largest hotel operator, said almost all its venues in Dublin are fully booked for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. It’s a “primarily North American” crowd, said Dermot Crowley, the group’s CEO. An England-Ireland rugby game the same weekend has also boosted numbers, he added.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines Inc. is offering almost 3 times as many seats to Dublin from the US this March compared to in 2019. The airline has added new routes from Atlanta and Boston due to high demand.
Elsewhere, US-based CIE Tours said new bookings for private driver tours of Ireland are up 70% on last year, with pent-up demand adding to the attractive exchange rate.
While travelers from the US will help Ireland this summer, persistent inflation across the Eurozone and the UK will damp demand from the continent. The economic outlook in Great Britain is of particular concern given it’s traditionally the largest source of overseas visitors to Ireland, said Denyse Campbell, president of the Irish Hotels Federation.
However, the “outlook for the US looks more positive with a significant amount of pent-up demand present,” she said.
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