Commenting on the CSO figures issued today for overseas visitor numbers to Ireland for the three-month period January to March 2013, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s figures from the CSO, showing growth of +7.4%, suggest a strong start to 2013 with the best first quarter performance from North America since 2004 and the best ever first quarter from Australia and developing markets (such as China and India). It is encouraging to see growth from all market areas and, in particular, to see Great Britain return the best first quarter performance in four years with growth of +1.4%.
“I particularly welcome the growth of +16.7% from North America and +13% from Mainland Europe. This year, we believe that North America and Mainland Europe hold the key to tourism growth. 2012 was one of the strongest years for visitors from the US to Ireland (after 2007) and these figures suggest we could be on course to achieve the best year ever from North America – when we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about US$1 billion. It is very encouraging to see growth across all European markets (for example, France +26.6%, Germany +10.5% and Benelux +10%). This reflects the sentiment expressed by industry partners including tour operators and carriers, as well as some tourism businesses here at home.
“Great Britain continues to be challenging, with the pace of economic recovery continuing to impact on outbound travel. In this context, we welcome the return to growth from this market (+1.4%) where we are implementing our “GB Path to Growth” plan. Our aim is to grow British holidaymakers by +20% i.e. an additional 200,000 holiday visitors per year by 2016. And, consumer confidence is vital if we are to sustain tourism growth.”
Niall Gibbons continued: “Tourism Ireland mounted its biggest ever St Patrick’s promotion with over 70 iconic landmarks across the world turning green to mark St Patrick’s Day. This year, 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.