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Tourism is hotting up under the  volcanic ash cloud as Irish holidaymakers swap Barcelona for Ballybunion, it was claimed today.

Despite contrary claims by other industry representatives, Fáilte Ireland said there has been a “significant uplift” for hoteliers, B&Bs and self-catering operators around the country.

John Concannon, director of market development at the State tourism agency, said the air traffic chaos was giving the trade a shot in the arm as people forsake foreign destinations for a “staycation”.

“The view presently is that the uplift is off-setting what has been lost,” he said.

Ireland is losing trade from an estimated 15,000 international visitors every day of the flight ban, with a cost to the economy of around €9 million. The flip side is that up to 15,000 people intending to return home were stranded in the country and Fáilte Ireland believes at least half of those are rebooking accommodation.

Mr Concannon said Fáilte Ireland directly contacted more than 300 hoteliers, bed and breakfast operators and self-catering businesses yesterday. Most reported a surge in business, and particularly from Irish tourists who have ditched plans for a break abroad and decided to holiday at home.

“The official data is about six months away but our intelligence, from people talking to businesses on the ground, says the Irish market is showing a bounce at the moment,” he said.

“People who were going away for the weekend to Paris or Amsterdam for example are saying let’s still go away, but let’s go to Cork, Galway or Kilkenny.”

The Irish Hotels’ Federation and the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation yesterday claimed the ash cloud was damaging business.

Fáilte Ireland has launched a campaign on the back of the volcanic fall-out aimed at holiday-makers at home, who make up 75 per cent of the overall tourism market. Advertisements in the national press under the slogan “Don’t Let an Icelandic Volcano Leave You Fuming” are highlighting events around the country over the coming weekends.

These include the Cuirt International Festival for Literature in Galway, the Ardara ‘Cup of Tae’ Traditional Music festival in Co Donegal and the Limerick Riverfest.

For international visitors forced to cancel their return trip, Fáilte Ireland has set up a special section on its website, called Stranded in Ireland. It details offers to those who can prove they are trapped here by the flight ban.

Despite fears that operators would hike up fees, Mr Concannon insisted tourism traders were “stepping up to the plate” with offers of free laundry, discounted golf and reduced room rates.

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