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 for the first quarter suggest a positive start to 2013. I am particularly pleased to see overall growth of +19% in holidaymakers and +12% in overseas revenue for the Irish economy. Certain markets are performing particularly well this year, including North America, with 2013 on course to be the strongest year ever from that market; and long-haul markets also look set for a record year. The Gathering Ireland has certainly played a major role in helping boost visitor numbers in the first quarter.
“We believe that Mainland Europe will also be critical for tourism growth this year; it is really encouraging to see strong growth in holidaymakers from important European markets like France (+115%) and Germany (+91%). While an early Easter has certainly been a factor, this growth reflects the sentiment expressed by our industry partners, including tour operators and carriers, as well as some tourism businesses here at home. The GB market is still proving challenging, with a flat economy and weak consumer confidence having a significant impact on overseas travel by Britons throughout the year. However, despite the fact that holidaymaker numbers were down -3% for the first quarter, it is encouraging to note that revenue from GB visitors was up +5%.”
- North America – 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. In the last two weeks, we have seen two new services introduced – a new American Airlines service between New York JFK and Dublin and an inaugural United Airlines flight from Chicago to Shannon. And last month, the inaugural US Airways flight from Philadelphia landed in Shannon.
- Mainland Europe – Business from Mainland Europe continues to perform very well, with France (holidaymakers up +115% and revenue up +28% in the first quarter) and Germany (holidaymakers up 91% and revenue up 37%), in particular, having an excellent year.
- 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 holidaymaker numbers to Ireland down -3% for the three-month period; however, revenue is up +5% for that period. 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 – 2013 also looks set to be a record year for visitor numbers from our longer-haul markets like Australia, China and India. Holidaymaker numbers from these markets increased by +19% during the three month-period January to March.
Niall Gibbons continued: “As we head into the high season, these results for the first quarter 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.