THE IRISH hotel sector is becoming increasingly reliant on domestic guests as a softening of tourist numbers threatens the market.
Irish visitors accounted for 64 per cent of bed nights spent in Irish hotels last year, according to latest figures from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF).
The figures show that 60 per cent of bed nights were accounted for by people from the Republic and 4 per cent were by visitors from the North.
This represents a sizeable shift since 1996, when Irish visitors accounted for just 48 per cent of hotel bed nights, although the number of hotel bedrooms in the country has more than doubled from 27,000 to 58,500 over that time.
There is some concern in the sector that hotels are becoming too dependent on the domestic market, particularly in light of the economic downturn widely touted by analysts.
John Power, chief executive of the IHF, said there had been some evidence of a softening in tourist numbers from Britain last month.
British travellers accounted for 16 per cent of bed nights last year, with 9 per cent of hotel visitors coming from the US, 8 per cent from continental Europe and 3 per cent from the rest of the world.
In the mid-1990s, British visitors accounted for 22 per cent of bed nights.
Power said US tour bus holidays were holding up well for the summer. The St Patrick’s Day and Easter period should give a clear indication of what kind of year hoteliers will have.
Mr Power said: "An awful lot depends on the discretional spending power of Irish consumers and the Irish economy.
"It is a concern, it has to be whenever you depend on one market or one economy.”