Commenting on the CSO figures issued today for overseas visitor numbers to Ireland for the three-month period November 2011 to January 2012, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Despite the global economic landscape of recent months, which continues to present a challenging environment for travel, I am pleased to see growth of almost +2% for the three-month period November 2011 to January 2012. It is a positive start to 2012 as we roll out our promotional programme around the world. We anticipate that growth in overseas visitor numbers for the first quarter of this year will be slow; however, overall sentiment and anecdotal feedback from tour operators and travel trade contacts in our key markets, as well as from people working in the tourism industry around Ireland, is cautiously optimistic – particularly for quarters two and three of 2012.
“Right now, we are preparing to roll out our largest ever St Patrick’s Day programme around the world – which will span Great Britain, Mainland Europe, North America, Australia, as well as developing markets such as China, India and South Africa. Over 70 million people around the world claim links with the island of Ireland and St Patrick’s Day is a truly unique opportunity to reconnect them with their heritage and to showcase our wonderful tourism offering to a huge global audience. People across the world instantly identify St Patrick’s Day with Ireland and that heightened profile allows us to put the holiday experience here in the spotlight. Our ‘greening’ initiative takes place again this year, with some famous additions like Niagara Falls and the TV tower in Berlin. Our aim is to bring a smile to the world and to convey the message that Ireland continues to offer a warm welcome, fun and spontaneity, alongside fantastic scenery and cultural activities.”
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.