Northern visitors still flocking to Republic despite fears of loss of trade over Brexit
VISITORS from Northern Ireland are continuing to flock to hotels over the border despite predictions that Brexit would lead to the evaporation of northern business in the south.
Despite the weakened pound following the UK's decision to leave the European Union, trade from the north appears to be still flowing into the Republic.
Hoteliers in border towns in counties Louth and Donegal have said there has been "no major drop off in trade" despite initial fears of economic turmoil.
There had been made concerns the Republic's tourism industry, which depends heavily on business with Britain, would suffer with the rapid fall in sterling after the Brexit vote in June.
Fears were rife that border towns in the Republic would be especially worst hit by fluctuations in the euro to sterling exchange rate with hotels and accommodation much cheaper in the north.
However, figures show the number of visitors from the UK to the Republic has increased in recent months.
Data from the Central Statistics Office reveals trips to Ireland made by UK residents increased by almost 9.5 per cent from July to September compared to the same three-month period last year.
Paul Diver, who runs the Sandhouse Hotel and Marine Spa in Rossnowlagh and is chairman of the Irish Hotels Federation branch in Co Donegal, said fears the Brexit vote would hit hard have not yet materialised.
"There's been no major drop off in trade," he said.
"We held a meeting this week and there were representatives of 25 hotels there and the main consensus was that there's been no massive change to trade. We're still very reliant on trade from the north and the main thing is that it's still coming.
"At the start, just after the Brexit vote, yes there was panic and things dropped off slightly, but it has settled now."
Mr Diver said one of the biggest concerns of Donegal hoteliers is the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
"One of our biggest panics after Brexit was the talk of the hard border, this would be absolutely disastrous for us," he said.
"We rely very heavily on the northern trade and our major fear would be if the hard border was brought in.
"Thankfully business has been steady, we still have a lot of weddings coming in.
"We know that hotels north of the border in Enniskillen and Derry are probably now around 10 to 15 per cent cheaper, so we're now having to compete with that.
"But as long as the sterling rate doesn't change too much more, we will hopefully be able to sustain where we are."
Hotelier John McParland, who owns businesses on either side of the border - the Carrickdale Hotel in Dundalk and the Canal Court Hotel in Newry - said fears of a loss of trade in the Republic had not yet been felt.
"From Brexit, we have seen very little change to date in terms of trade for the Carrickdale Hotel and Spa," he said.
"We have had a very busy summer with families from Northern Ireland and only last week the Festival Dance Teachers Association (FDTA) Ulster Dance Championships where held at the hotel, so from a short-term point of view, trade has not been affected by the Brexit decision.
"The Canal Court on the other side, is definitely benefitting from the southern trade, particularly on the lead up to Christmas, and whilst we are enjoying this increase in business we cannot envisage what the long-term implications will be."
However, Mr McParland said they were aware trade could be affected by further exchange rate changes.
"It is difficult to plan long-term until plans and agreements are put in place between the two governments, but we are certainly enjoying the increased trade to the Canal Court Hotel at present but fear the fall in the value of sterling could affect the Carrickdale Hotel if it continues to fall," he said.
"No-one can predict when the exchange rate may change again, so it is up us to make both hotels competitive so that there is no loss in trade."