Waterford is seeing the same struggles as every other city in terms of rising costs, but there are opportunities on the horizon, according to the CEO of Waterford Chamber of Commerce.
"The cost of living crisis and ever-increasing costs are of course resulting in challenging times for businesses and we are very cognisant of this fact,” said Gerald Hurley in interview with the Irish Independent.
"However, Waterford is riding high in terms of international recognition at the moment and the New York Times has cemented on our status as the darling of Ireland by including Ireland's Oldest City in the Top 52 places to visit in the world.
“In recent weeks, Waterford has also been named the 2024 European City of Christmas and has been named as one of the three locations in Ireland to host the World Rally Championships in the near future.
"These combined are a huge boost for our city and county and reports we commissioned by EY and RIKON, the research arm of SETU, show just how Waterford is a City of Opportunity.
“At present, according to the data, we have a staggering retail leakage of over €600m and while this is wholly disappointing, it also showcases the opportunity for retailers looking to invest in Waterford.
“We are actively working with stakeholders to attract retail investment into Waterford and the fact that Waterford has the largest catchment outside of Dublin within an hour’s drive, totalling 634,000 people, is a top tier headline for any investor.
“There are impressive plans in place to revitalise the city centre, including the development of the North Quays and the new connecting bridge, as well as bringing the renowned Waterford Greenway into the heart of the city.
“All this will add to Waterford's attractiveness as a great place to live, work, visit, invest in and do business.
"Our night-time economy continues to perform well, despite January being a tough month for all in business. We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members for the 9pc VAT rate for the hospitality sector, which should compensate somewhat for the rising costs.
"As we look towards our tourist season, we are confident we can deliver a fantastic experience for all, with a robust hospitality and cultural offering. Waterford does struggle in terms of bed space, but with two new hotels planned, one at the North Quays and another on Michael Street, this should go a long way to addressing this issue in the next couple of years.
"There is extensive collaboration between stakeholders across the region and Waterford, as the capital city of the South East, will drive the agenda forward, ensuing a vibrant and well-supported business community,” said Mr Hurley.