Thousands of jobs are at risk in the Irish tourist industry, and the viability of many hotels threatened, in the aftermath of the New York and Washington attacks, according to the state tourist board.
Bord Failte said the attacks had caused "huge cancellations" by the million or so Americans who visit the country each year, contributing more than IR£550m (£438m) to the Irish economy. In a statement expressing "grave concern" at the prospects for the IR£4.7b (£3.74b) industry in the coming months, the board calls for urgent action by government to ease the crisis.
It recommends that airport landing charges at Dublin, Cork and Shannon be subsidised to encourage new low-cost services from mainland Europe and increase tourist traffic.
"This is a market of 300 million people", it says, "from which we now receive an average of 1.4 million visitors annually, less than 0.5% of the population."
Bleak warnings about job losses were echoed by John Power, chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation, who estimated that the "enormous fall" in business from the USA could amount to IR£100m (£79.6m) in lost earnings for the remainder of the year. As many as 5,000 jobs could be at risk.
He said that during the Gulf War there were 35% cancellations and it took three years for bookings to recover to pre-war levels.
One hotel lost IR£500,000 (£398,000) in bookings in the immediate aftermath of the US attacks. Dromoland Castle, Bill Clinton's favourite Irish hotel near Shannon Airport, had more than 400 room nights cancelled on the same day.
In Dublin, two of the city's five-star hotels, the Four Seasons and the Merrion, reported a 12% drop in their American business.
by Anthony Garvey
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 27 September - 3 October 2001