Commenting on the CSO figures issued today for overseas visitor numbers to Ireland for the three-month period November 2012 to January 2013, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to see growth of +4.4% for the three-month period November 2012 to January 2013. Further analysis suggests good growth for the month of January alone, which represents a very positive start to 2013, as we roll out our promotional programme around the world.
“I particularly welcome the growth of +12% from North America for November 2012 to January 2013. This year, we believe that North America holds the key to tourism growth. 2012 was one of the strongest years ever for visitors from the US to Ireland (after 2007) and 2013 could be the best year ever – when we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about US$1 billion. A critical factor which will underpin this growth is the significant increase – about +26% – in the number of airline seats between the US and Ireland for the peak season (June to August).”
Today’s figures also show very good growth in visitor numbers from Ireland’s long-haul markets (+16%). And indications for these markets 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.
Visitor numbers from Mainland Europe grew by over +5%; Europe is an increasingly important market for tourism to the island of Ireland and in 2013 Tourism Ireland aims to welcome almost 2.5 million European visitors. And, the number of British visitors grew by almost +1%; Tourism Ireland is currently rolling out the new “GB Path to Growth” strategy, which aims to return the important GB market to sustained growth.
Niall Gibbons continued: “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. 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 Global Greening initiative takes place again this year, with some famous additions like the Pyramids of Giza, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, the ‘Welcome’ sign in Las Vegas and the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. 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 €3.5 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.