Employment trends in tourism and hospitality

Labour market information: tourism, hospitality and leisure in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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The tourism and hospitality industry in the Republic of Ireland employs between 150,000 and 250,000 employees across all areas (depending on which criteria you use), earning over €6 billion for the Irish economy. Of course those are pre-pandemic figures and Covid-19 has decimated the industry, essentially shutting it down for over 18 months. But tourism has bounced back before. The sector rebounded strongly from the economic downturn and is one of the country's most diverse and vibrant areas of employment, though competition remains strong for skilled positions.


  • Irish hospitality, tourism and leisure graduates have a strong reputation worldwide for their expertise in hotel, restaurant, bar, leisure and resort management expertise, building on the reputation of Ireland internationally as a friendly and hospitable country.
  • 2016 was a record year for Irish tourism with 8.8 million international tourists visiting the State
  • The UK based holiday resort company Centre Parcs will open a €233 million resort, employing 1,000 people, in County Longford in 2019
  • Ireland won Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction for the last year years in a row at the World Travel Awards (Spike Island in Cork, 2017, Titanic Belfast, 2016, Guinness Storehouse, 2015)
  • International tourists spent a record €6.6 billion in 2016, this represents growth of 9.5% on 2015
  • Ireland now has 11 Michelin star restaurants, more than ever before, reflecting the worldwide reputation of Irish food
  • Condé Nast magazine recently selected Ballyfin Demense (County Laois) as the world’s best hotel
  • The Restaurant Association of Ireland notes a national shortage of skilled chefs and tourism bodies report that more than 5,000 new hotel rooms are needed by 2020 to satisfy demand
  • Irish Institutes of Technology and universities have a worldwide reputation for hospitality education, attracting students from many countries and offer courses from Higher Certificates to Ordinary and Honours level degrees, Master’s and Doctorates in tourism
  • The average room rate in Dublin is now €128, up from almost €112 last year and well ahead of the previous record of €121, set in 2006.


The larger sporting organisations appear to remain strong due to the ongoing popularity of sport in Ireland and elsewhere. However, those in the sports industry more dependent on state funding (eg local authorities) have been hit much harder and hence have limited graduate opportunities.

The events industry

The events industry is one of the first to be hit during an economic downturn as companies or individuals are unwilling or don’t want to be seen to fund costly events. But keep your eyes open. Events will still happen – but probably on the cheap – so get involved. Also, marketing budgets often remain high even when all other department funding is cut.

Growth areas

The cruise line industry has seen growth in recent years and remains an employment option. Some catering management companies in the ROI have reported growth leading to graduate opportunities.

Fáilte Ireland , the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism have targeted a number of strategic areas as potential growth areas worth investing in:

  • Cultural tourism: a significant growth area worldwide, which has had an estimated value to the Irish economy of over €5 billion annually.
  • Festivals and cultural events initiative: aims to spread events around the country and invest in attractive and sustainable events to enhance local and regional tourism.
  • Food tourism .
  • Sustainable/eco tourism (also called agri, agro and rural tourism): a real global growth area.
  • Adventure tourism.
  • Short city breaks: Ireland as a city break destination.
  • Car touring: seen by many tourists as a cheaper way to holiday.
  • Sports tourism: involves a focus on bringing major sporting events to Ireland, particularly those which showcase Ireland as a tourism destination. Piggy-backing on events such as the Olympic Games in London 2012 can also be lucrative. Recent reports have suggested that tourism in the Republic and Northern Ireland could benefit to the tune of €58m and €12m respectively from the 2012 games.
  • Leisure pursuits/amenities: walking, hill walking, cruising, angling, golf, cycling, equestrian.
  • Spa and wellness/well-being activities.
  • New and developing markets such as China and India: knowledge of these markets (eg a desire to travel in groups) and the offering of suitable products is vital. Language skills can be vital for building these ‘tourism’ relationships.
  • English language learning.
  • Business/corporate tourism: offers real growth potential through marketing Ireland as a conference/business and incentive travel destination. The success of the newly opened Convention Centre Dublin is an example of this. The potential benefit to other sections of the tourism industry is also great, eg accommodation providers, leisure pursuits/amenities, food and drink sector.
  • E-tourism: potential opportunities for those who want to innovate in and work on online marketing/sales and information management.
  • Rapidly aging populations: this will mean a need for a far more expansive range of products and services aimed at this demographic group, eg cruises.

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