Commenting on the CSO figures issued today for overseas visitors to Ireland for the three-month period March to May 2013, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s figures from the CSO for the March to May period suggest a positive start to 2013, with growth in overseas visitors for that period of +8%. It is encouraging to see growth from all market areas and, in particular, from Great Britain. The Gathering Ireland has certainly played a major role in helping boost visitor numbers in the first five months of the year.
“Certain markets are performing particularly well this year, including North America (+12.6%), with 2013 on course to be the strongest year ever from that market. We believe that Mainland Europe (+9.6%) will also be critical for tourism growth this year; it is really encouraging to see strong performances for the March to May period from important European markets like France (+26.3%), Germany (+6.1%), the Nordic region (+6%), and Benelux (+11%). This growth reflects the sentiment expressed by our industry partners, including tour operators and carriers, as well as some tourism businesses here at home.
“We know that Great Britain continues to be challenging, with the pace of economic recovery and weak consumer confidence still continuing to impact on outbound travel. However, despite these challenges, it is extremely encouraging to see growth of +5.6% for this three-month period (+2.8% to end May). Tourism Ireland is rolling out a new plan in 2013, developed in conjunction with industry partners – called “GB Path to 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. Given that outbound travel by Britons to all destinations is down -1% (to end April), today’s results for travel to Ireland are encouraging – indicating that the “GB Path to Growth” plan is beginning to take effect.”
Tourism Ireland believes that we are on course to achieve our best year ever from the United States; in 2013, we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about US$1 billion. This summer will see a significant increase – almost +27% – in the number of airline seats between the US and Ireland for the peak season (June-August), making it easier and more affordable than ever before for Americans to get to the island of Ireland. As an island, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated – they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism.
Niall Gibbons continued: “As we are now into the high season, these results are encouraging. Tourism Ireland has a very strong programme of promotional activity in place across the globe, highlighting the island of Ireland to potential holidaymakers everywhere. We believe that – working closely with our industry partners in 2013 – we can deliver a +5% increase in visitor numbers. 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.