Commenting on the CSO figures issued today for overseas visitors to Ireland for the first six months of 2012, Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said:“ Global economic conditions, and in particular the ongoing problems within the Eurozone, continue to present a challenging environment for travel to Ireland, as reflected in today’s CSO figures which are flat for the first six months of the year.
“However, within today’s figures there are a number of encouraging indicators. The second quarter shows an improved performance on the first quarter; and the month of June alone has seen overall growth of several percentage points when compared with June 2011, including from the important GB market. And, as our tourism partners at home and overseas have suggested, business from Mainland Europe continues to grow, with core markets all recording increases. Visitor numbers from Germany are up +5.6%, Italy +14.7%, the Nordic region almost +6% and Benelux +6.3%, for the period January to June; this growth is expected to continue during the summer months.
“I also welcome the positive figures from Australia and New Zealand (+9%) and from emerging tourism markets like China and India of +5.5% – thanks in part to the improved ease of access, with 17 flights to Ireland now with Etihad and Emirates via the Middle East, as well as the visa waiver scheme.
“The British market is still proving difficult (-1% for the first six months of the year), with a flat economy and weak consumer confidence having a significant impact on outbound travel. Many GB residents are opting for ‘staycations’ and travel by Britons to all destinations in Western Europe is down -3% for the first five months of the year. However, our “Escape the Madness” campaign is now in full swing, highlighting the island of Ireland to Londoners as a hassle-free holiday option during the Olympic Games. Tourism Ireland’s brand new short film, which is part of the “Escape the Madness” campaign, features a cameo appearance and voice-over by actor Chris O’Dowd; since it was launched last week, it has already been viewed almost 186,000 times on YouTube.
“We know that our tourism industry colleagues are reasonably positive for the peak summer months, based on enquiries and bookings, although growth in visitor numbers will depend to a large extent on improved economic conditions and consumer confidence. Late booking patterns still prevail in many of our source markets, demonstrating that there is still everything to play for this summer and for the remainder of the year. Tourism Ireland teams are working hard across the markets to maximise those opportunities. In addition, some forthcoming high profile events – like the Notre Dame vs Navy game at the Aviva Stadium in September which will be attended by over 33,000 American football fans – promise to deliver many thousands of international visitors.”
Overseas tourism has a critical role to play in contributing to Ireland’s economic recovery. Overseas tourism business accounts for 59% (approximately €3.4 billion) of all tourism revenue and has the capacity to deliver even more for Ireland as part of an export-led economic renewal. Tourism is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, contributing almost 4% of GNP and providing employment for over 200,000 people in every community throughout the island.