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10 Aug 2016

Mid-year review of overseas tourism 2016

Strong first-half performance with +13% growth means 2016 on track to be another record-breaking year for Irish tourism

Official CSO figures for the first half of 2016 confirm growth of +13% in overseas visitors to Ireland, over half a million visitors more than the same period last year. At today’s mid-year review of overseas tourism for 2016, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Tourism Ireland CEO, Niall Gibbons, confirmed that this growth has come from our main market areas around the world (Britain, North America and Mainland Europe). They outlined what has contributed to this success and, more importantly, what will help to sustain and build on the growth to year end and into 2017.

Speaking at the mid-year review of overseas tourism, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, said: “The very strong growth in overseas visits to Ireland during the first half of 2016 is welcome news for all of us, and especially for communities across the country where tourism is a mainstay of the local economy and an important source of employment.  The quality of our overseas marketing has helped to ensure that interest in visiting Ireland remains high among potential visitors in our top source markets, and continued investment by Government in tourism developments like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin – A Breath of Fresh Air is helping to capture the imagination of potential visitors across the world and to keep Ireland in the international spotlight.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am delighted to report growth of +13% in overseas visitors to Ireland for the first half of 2016, an additional 507,400 visitors when compared with January to June 2015. Our aim is to ensure that 2016 is another record-breaking year for Irish tourism and we have certainly seen an exceptional performance so far from North America – up +15% on the first half in 2015, making it another record year. Ireland now welcomes 10% of all American visitors to Europe – particularly noteworthy given the intense competition from other destinations.

“It has also been the best ever, first half performance from Mainland Europe (+11%), with important markets like Italy, Spain, Germany, France and Benelux all recording strong growth. I am also really pleased to see visitor numbers from Great Britain, our largest market, increase by +16% for the first half of 2016.”

Summary of the first half of the year:
  • CSO figures for the first half of 2016 confirm growth of +13% in overseas visitors to Ireland, an additional 507,400 additional visitors when compared with January to June 2015.
  • This represents growth from our main market areas around the world:
    • Britain                      +16%          
    • North America          +15%
    • Mainland Europe      +11%
      • Germany          + 5%
      • France             + 6%
      • Spain              +12%
      • Italy                +12%
      • Benelux          +28%
      • Nordic region     +2%
What has contributed to our success?
  • Global campaigns reach 200 million people: Tourism Ireland’s global campaigns will reach an estimated audience of some 200 million prospective visitors worldwide this year.         
  • Strong online and social media presence: Tourism Ireland continues to leverage its strength in digital and social media. The organisation is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (after Australia, the United States and Britain), with 3.6 million fans; the number two tourism board on Twitter; and the number two tourism board on YouTube.
  • Air access: the introduction of a number of important new routes from our main markets to Ireland this year has been a significant contributing factor to the growth. These have included new Aer Lingus flights to Dublin from Los Angeles, Pisa and Montpelier, and from Düsseldorf to Cork; Flybe flights from Edinburgh and Birmingham to Ireland West Airport Knock; CityJet’s flights from Nantes and La Rochelle to Cork; an Iberia Express flight between Madrid and Cork; as well as a new Air Canada rouge services from Vancouver to Dublin. As an island, direct, convenient and competitive access services are critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism. Summer 2016 sees an estimated 537,000 direct, one-way air seats available each week, a +9% increase on summer 2015.
  • Positive publicity: each year, Tourism Ireland invites influential travel and lifestyle journalists from around the world to visit the island of Ireland, helping to generate positive publicity about Ireland in the international media worth about €358 million in equivalent advertising value (EAV).
  • Screen tourism success: TV and film are recognised as strong influencers on travellers everywhere. Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke box office records around the world last December, bringing the magnificent scenery of Skellig Michael and the Wild Atlantic Way to the attention of millions of people everywhere. The fact that the next episode was also shot on location along the Wild Atlantic Way earlier this year is another fantastic coup for Irish tourism – and Tourism Ireland will continue to maximise the Star Wars connection with Ireland, targeting fans everywhere and whetting their appetites to come and visit. Already, our specially-commissioned ‘behind-the-scenes’ films have been viewed about 4.2 million times (worth some €12 million in EAV).
    Tourism Ireland also continued its partnership with HBO again this spring, to showcase Northern Ireland to millions of Game of Thrones fans worldwide. Our campaign in 2015 generated about five million clicks, comments and shares and reached about 100 million fans across the world (worth about €32 million in EAV).
What will sustain and build on the growth?
  • Tourism Ireland is determined to ensure that overseas tourism growth continues. The organisation is undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world in the second half of 2016.
  • Tourism Ireland will maximise the introduction of a number of new air routes, to grow tourism in the shoulder and off-seasons. These include new Ryanair flights to Dublin from Hamburg and Bologna; broader transatlantic services from Aer Lingus, including new flights from Hartford (Connecticut) and Newark (New Jersey), beginning in September, as well as additional departures on its Chicago to Dublin route; a new Norwegian winter service from Helsinki to Dublin; and a new KLM flight between Amsterdam and Dublin.
  • Tourism Ireland’s busy autumn promotional schedule will include:
    • ‘Jump into Ireland’ travel trade and media blitzes in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle;
    • Sales missions to the Middle East, India, New Zealand and Australia;
    • ‘Flavours of Ireland’ – targeting long-haul markets through influential UK inbound tour operators; and
    • World Travel Market, London – the largest B2B event in the global travel and tourism calendar.
Tourism Ireland continues to monitor the possible impacts of Brexit very closely, at home and overseas.
  • Niall Gibbons continued: “Although it is still too soon to fully understand the long-term implications for tourism to the island of Ireland, we know that economic uncertainty can cause consumers to be more cautious with their discretionary spend, including holidays. Recent currency movements also mean that holidays in the Eurozone are about 10% more expensive for British travellers. However, the British market will remain of significant importance for all of us in the short, medium and long-term. Tourism Ireland has committed to continued monitoring of developments over the coming months. But, for now, it is very much business as usual. We will shortly launch an extensive global autumn campaign, which will include an extensive programme of promotions in Britain, to boost business in the shoulder and off-peak season.”
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland; Tourism Minister Shane Ross; and Joan O’Shaughnessy, Vice Chairman of Tourism Ireland, at the mid-year review of overseas tourism.

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 220,000 people.
  • In 2015, we welcomed approximately 9.3 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of about €4.7 billion.
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, 29 market sites available in ten language versions around the world, which attracted about 16.5 million visits in 2015.