Commenting on the CSO figures issued today for overseas visitor numbers to Ireland for 2012, Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said:“We are pleased to see a strong final quarter in 2012 (+5%) for overseas visitors to Ireland – an encouraging sign as we kick off our extensive programme of promotional activity for 2013. Last year, we welcomed over 1 million visitors from North America – for the first time since the previous high of 2007. 2012 was a record year for our long-haul markets (+6%); and Mainland Europe also showed good growth, especially from the important German market (+6% over 2011). Great Britain has proved more challenging (-4%), with a flat economy and weak consumer confidence having a significant impact on overseas travel by Britons throughout the year.”
• North America – Final figures for 2012 show that this market had its second best year ever (after 2007), delivering 1,016,900 visitors. The number of North American visitors for the final quarter alone is up an impressive +14%. And, with the number of airline seats from the United States to Ireland set to grow by more than +20% this summer, Tourism Ireland believes this is a market of considerable potential for 2013 and beyond.
• Mainland Europe – Mainland Europe also continues to perform well (+3% over 2011), with Germany in particular having an excellent year (+6%); and other important markets like Italy (+14%), Spain (+3%) and the Nordic countries (+5%) also recording good growth.
• Great Britain – The pace of economic recovery and weak consumer confidence in Great Britain are still having a significant impact on outbound travel, with British visitor numbers down -4%. Tourism Ireland is rolling out a brand new plan in 2013, developed in conjunction with industry partners – called “GB Path to Growth” – to return this, our largest market, to sustained growth. The plan aims to grow the number of British holidaymakers by +20% i.e. an additional 200,000 holiday visitors per year by 2016.
• Australia and Developing Markets – 2012 was a record year for visitor numbers from Ireland’s longer-haul markets (+6%). And indications for 2013 are also positive; Etihad has announced a +35% increase in capacity on its service from Abu Dhabi to Dublin, which is in addition to the Emirates service from Dubai – both providing excellent connectivity for Ireland with the Middle East and longer-haul markets.
Niall Gibbons continued: “As we look ahead to 2013, we are very much aware that the economic landscape presents a challenging environment for travel. However, despite the uncertainty surrounding the pace of economic recovery in our key source markets, we believe that – working closely with our industry partners in 2013 – we can deliver a +5% increase in visitor numbers, with North America and Mainland Europe representing significant potential. In particular, The Gathering Ireland 2013 and Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 present tremendous opportunities for us to shine a spotlight on the island of Ireland around the world.”
Overseas tourism has a critical role to play in contributing to Ireland’s economic recovery. Overseas tourism business accounts for 59% (approximately €3.5 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.
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