Commenting on figures published by the CSO for overseas visitors to Ireland between December 2016 and February 2017, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to see growth of +3% for the three-month period December 2016 to February 2017; it’s a positive start to 2017. Particularly welcome is the growth of over +38% in visitor numbers from North America. Tourism Ireland has prioritised North America for 2017, as a market which offers a strong return on investment, in terms of holiday visitors and expenditure. A number of factors are working in our favour, including more airline seats than ever before between North America and Ireland, with numerous new flights and expanded services in the pipeline for this year.
“Visitor numbers from Australia and Developing Markets for the December to February period are also exceptionally strong, up almost +20%. We’re seeing the benefit of our sales missions to Australia, New Zealand, China, India and the Middle East in 2016. And, with a new Qatar Airways service from Doha to Dublin due to commence in June, prospects for 2017 are positive; the new flight will certainly expand travel options for holidaymakers and business travellers from the Middle East and further afield wishing to visit the island of Ireland.
“We’ve seen visitors from Mainland Europe increase by almost +1% during this three-month period, following a record 2016, with important markets like France and Spain performing well. Visitor numbers from Britain have declined by almost -6%. This reflects feedback we’ve been getting from our Irish industry partners, including hoteliers and major visitor attractions, who have experienced some softening in visitors from Britain. We’re also seeing the impact of a difficult underlying trend in the British market – which includes a drop in air access to the island of Ireland this summer (-4% less capacity on cross-channel routes). Since the UK referendum on Brexit, the drop in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors; and economic uncertainty is making British travellers more cautious about their discretionary spending, which is impacting on travel to Ireland. We will continue to monitor developments around Brexit closely, to better understand and plan for its implications on travel. Competitiveness and value for money will be more important than ever, given the decline in the value of sterling.
“For 2017, our aim is to grow overseas tourism revenue this year by +4.5%, to €5.7 billion, for the island of Ireland. Our promotions received a tremendous boost this month, with our Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day, which was bigger and better than ever before. 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.
“Tourism Ireland will create ‘stand out’ for Ireland around the world throughout 2017, highlighting iconic experiences like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route. We will also promote Dublin and Belfast, in particular for shoulder and off-peak travel. Screen tourism will remain a priority, as we continue to capitalise on our connections with Star Wars and Game of Thrones.”
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 2016, we welcomed approximately 10.5 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of about €5.4 billion.
- Tourism Ireland’s international website is www.ireland.com, 29 market sites available in 11 language versions around the world, which attracted 19.37 million visitors in 2016.