The conclusion of an agreement between the Government and the International Airlines Group (IAG) on the sale of the State’s share in Aer Lingus represents a major boost for tourism from North America. It has the capacity to significantly increase both visitor numbers and revenue from one of Ireland’s most important tourism markets, according to Tourism Ireland.
2014 was a record year for American visitors to Ireland – with more than one million US visitors spending over US$1 billion. And 2015 has got off to a positive start, with the most recent CSO figures showing growth of +7% in North American visitors for the first quarter, an additional 12,300 US and Canadian visitors compared with the same three-month period last year.
A critical factor which has underpinned this growth is the significant increase in the number of airline seats between North America and Ireland in recent years. This summer, there will be more than 40,000 airline seats available each week, in each direction, between the United States and Ireland – an increase of +15% on the peak summer period in 2014. This year’s new services include Aer Lingus from Washington DC, United Airlines from Chicago and Ethiopian Airlines from Los Angeles.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s announcement that Aer Lingus – within the IAG family – plans to add four transatlantic flights, increase its fleet by eight new aircraft and carry up to 2.4 million additional passengers by 2020 represents a huge boost for the tourism sector.”
Ireland now welcomes 10% of all travellers from the United States to Europe. American visitors tend to stay longer and spend more and they contribute significantly to a number of tourism sectors, including hotels, escorted tours and car hire. However, while the US represents a huge opportunity for the island of Ireland, it is also an extremely competitive market. That competition has intensified as the number of choices available to the US traveller has grown.
“A key challenge for Tourism Ireland is converting those with an interest in visiting Ireland into solid bookings. Apart from the additional flights, the Aer Lingus link-up – through IAG – with American Airlines and the oneworld alliance will give Irish tourism the benefit of a larger global sales network, selling seats on Aer Lingus flights from the US,”
added Niall Gibbons.
In addition to more flights from the United States, the ability of Aer Lingus to now connect into the British Airways and Iberia global networks will also open up new opportunities for Irish tourism, especially in markets like South America and Asia.
Niall Gibbons concluded: “In my view, the retention of a separate Aer Lingus brand within the international IAG family gives us the best of both worlds – a strong, traditional, iconic brand supported by a great international network of one of the world’s leading airline groups. It is a combination which can help accelerate the important contribution overseas tourism is making to the economy.”
Notes To Editors
- Tourism Ireland is the organisation responsible for promoting the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination.
- Tourism is the island of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry; responsible for in excess of 4% of GNP in the Republic of Ireland and employing approximately 200,000 people.
- In 2014, we welcomed an estimated 8.6 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of about €4.26 billion. Overseas tourism business accounts for 59% of all tourism revenue.
- Tourism Ireland’s international website is www.Ireland.com, available in ten different language versions for over 30 individual markets around the world. In 2014, Ireland.com attracted about 14.25 million visitors.