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09 Aug 2017

Mid-year review of overseas tourism 2017

Good first-half performance with +4.2% growth

Currency challenge impacts British visitor numbers

Official CSO figures for the first half of 2017 confirm growth of +4.2% in overseas visitors to Ireland, 182,000 arrivals more than the record first half of 2016. At today’s mid-year review of overseas tourism, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Tourism Ireland CEO, Niall Gibbons, confirmed that this growth has come from North America, Mainland Europe and Australia and Developing Markets. As anticipated, the decline in the value of sterling is reflected in British visitor numbers to Ireland – which are down -6.4% for H1. Minister Ross and Niall Gibbons outlined what has contributed to the tourism growth so far this year and, more importantly, what will help build on the growth and address the areas of decline to year end and into 2018. 

Speaking at the mid-year review of overseas tourism, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, said: “I am very encouraged by the overseas visit figures for the first half of 2017. Following the strong growth in recent years, it was always going to be a challenge to grow the numbers further this year, and so the growth of +4% in visit numbers in the first half of the year is significant. It is a concern, but not a surprise, that the number of visits from Britain has fallen in the early part of the year as a result of the sterling depreciation following the Brexit referendum. There is no doubt that competitiveness in our tourism industry is vital at this time.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to report growth of +4.2% in overseas visitors to Ireland for the first half of 2017, an additional 182,000 visitors when compared with January to June 2016. We have seen an exceptional performance so far from North America – up +21.6% on the first half in 2016, 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 (almost +6%), with important markets like Spain, Germany, France and the Nordic Region all recording really good growth. I am also really pleased to see visitor numbers from Australia and Developing Markets increase by +20.6% for the first half of 2017.

“Regarding the British market, the decline in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive, which is in turn impacting on Irish tourism, as evidenced by the latest CSO results – which confirm a decline of -6.4% in British visitor numbers to Ireland for the first half of 2017. Therefore, competitiveness and the value for money message are more important than ever in Britain right now. Tourism Ireland is placing a greater focus on our ‘culturally curious’ audience, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations. We are also undertaking an expanded partnership programme with airlines, ferry operators and tour operators, communicating a strong price-led message.”

Summary of the first half of the year:
  • CSO figures for the first half of 2017 confirm growth of +4.2% in overseas visitors to Ireland, an additional 182,000 additional visitors when compared with January to June 2016. 
  • The CSO figures can be broken down as follows:
    • Britain                                                   -6.4%            
    • North America                                    +21.6%
    • Mainland Europe                                     +6%
      -    Germany                                          +4.2%
      -    France                                              +5.4%
      -    Spain                                              +22.1%
      -    Benelux                                                +4%
      -    Nordic region                                     +6.4%
    •  Australia and Developing Markets        +20.6%
What has contributed to the growth?
  • Global campaigns reach hundreds of millions: Tourism Ireland’s global campaigns will reach hundreds of millions of prospective visitors worldwide this year.         
  • Strong online and social media presence – number 4 in the world on Facebook: Tourism Ireland continues to leverage its strength in digital and social media. The organisation is the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (after Australia, the United States and Turkey), with more than 3.9 million fans; the number four tourism board on Twitter; and the number three tourism board on YouTube.
  • Air access up +4% in summer 2017: 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 a Delta flight from Boston to Dublin, a Transavia flight from Munich to Dublin, a Norwegian service between Stockholm and Dublin, an SAS flight from Stockholm to Shannon, a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Shannon, Icelandair from Reykjavik to Belfast, WOW air from Reykjavik to Cork, Ryanair between Girona and Belfast, a Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Cork and Norwegian transatlantic services to Cork (from TF Green Airport in Providence) and to Belfast, Shannon, and Dublin from New York (Stewart International Airport) and Providence (Rhode Island). Aer Lingus has expanded services on flights from Los Angeles, Chicago and Orlando. Also, in July, Qatar Airways launched a new service between Doha and Dublin; and Etihad is once again operating double-daily departures between Abu Dhabi and Dublin. As an island, direct, convenient and competitive access services are critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism. Summer 2017 sees an estimated 550,000+ direct, one-way air seats available each week, a +4% increase on summer 2016. 
  • Positive publicity worth €327 million: 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 €327 million in equivalent advertising value (EAV). 
  • Screen tourism success: TV and film are recognised as strong influencers on travellers everywhere and Tourism Ireland continues to leverage our connections with Star Wars and Game of Thrones. Our partnership with HBO continues again this year, to showcase Northern Ireland to millions of Game of Thrones fans worldwide. This year’s campaign is bigger than ever before – featuring a 77-metre long, Bayeux-style tapestry, hanging in the Ulster Museum, which brings to life the trials and tribulations of the show’s characters in its most epic and famous scenes. Last year, our ‘Doors of Thrones’ campaign reached an estimated 126 million people around the world, with the campaign’s various short films being viewed 17 million times, generating coverage worth about £11.3 million.
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 2017. 
  • Tourism Ireland will maximise the introduction of new air routes, to grow tourism in the shoulder and off-seasons. These include a new Aer Lingus flight from Miami to Dublin (launching in September) and a new Ryanair flight from Berlin to Kerry. 
  • Tourism Ireland’s busy autumn promotional schedule will include: 
    • A campaign on Classic FM and Smooth Radio featuring a high profile personality in Britain, which will reach more than 7.5 million ‘culturally curious’ travellers;
    • A separate campaign with Vevo (popular music and entertainment platform) in Britain, starring some well-known music acts – highlighting Dublin and Belfast for a great city break to approximately 1.5 million ‘social energisers’;  
    • ‘Jump into Ireland’ travel trade and media blitzes in San Diego, San Francisco and Houston; 
    • 2017 sales mission to the Middle East (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and India (Mumbai and Delhi);
    • ‘Flavours of Ireland’ – targeting long-haul markets through influential UK inbound tour operators; 
    • IFTM (International French Travel Market), the largest travel trade exhibition in France; 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: “Great Britain is a vital market for tourism to the island of Ireland. It delivers 47% of all overseas visitors and around 30% of all overseas tourism revenue. Most tourism companies around the island of Ireland will be affected by Brexit, so it’s essential that we continue to defend our share of this most competitive market. 

“We will shortly launch our global autumn campaign, which will include an extensive programme of promotions in Britain, to boost business in the shoulder and off-peak season. Towards the end of 2017, we will launch a new Star Wars campaign, to coincide with the release of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, taking every opportunity to capitalise on the huge publicity around the film and whetting peoples’ appetites to come and visit the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland in 2018 and beyond.”

Joan O’Shaughnessy, Chairman of Tourism Ireland; Tourism Minister Shane Ross; and Niall Gibbons, CEO 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 281,000 people across the island.
  • In 2016, we welcomed approximately 10.3 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of about €5.3 billion.
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, 29 market sites available in 11 language versions around the world, which attracted 19.37 million visitors in 2016.