Commenting on the CSO figures issued today for overseas visitor numbers to Ireland for the three-month period December 2012 to February 2013, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to see growth of +2.6% for the three-month period December 2012 to February 2013. It’s a positive start to 2013, as we roll out our promotional programme around the world. I particularly welcome the growth of +10% from North America for December 2012 to February 2013. This year, we believe that North America holds the key to tourism growth. 2012 was one of the strongest years 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). The CSO figures also show a positive performance from Mainland Europe, with growth of almost +6% for three-month period”.
Today’s figures also show very good growth from Ireland’s long-haul markets (+15.3%). 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 +5.7%; 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.
Regarding Great Britain, the pace of economic recovery and weak consumer confidence continue to impact on outbound travel, with British visitor numbers down -2.4% for the three-month 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.
Niall Gibbons continued: “Our promotions received a tremendous boost over the St Patrick’s Day period, with our ‘global greening’ initiative which was bigger and better than ever before, truly capturing the imagination of people everywhere. St Patrick’s Day traditionally marks the real start of the tourism season for us and we took every opportunity to capitalise on Ireland’s heightened profile. Our extensive promotional programme throughout 2013 spans Great Britain, Mainland Europe, North America, Australia, as well as developing markets such as China, India and South Africa – with The Gathering Ireland and Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture providing wonderful opportunities for us to shine a spotlight on the island of Ireland everywhere this year.”
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.