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14 Aug 2018

Mid-year review of overseas tourism 2018: strong first-half performance with +6.7% growth

Successful first half for Irish tourism but challenges on the horizon

Official CSO figures for the first half of 2018 confirm growth of +6.7% in overseas visitors to Ireland – 307,000 more arrivals than the record first half of 2017. 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 all of our main market areas around the world (Britain, North America, Mainland Europe, Australia and Emerging Markets).

Minister Ross and Niall Gibbons outlined what has contributed to the tourism growth so far this year. They also discussed the challenges for Irish tourism to sustain growth into 2019 and beyond. These include external factors like oil price rises, changes in the fortunes of key markets like the US, international trade barriers and air travel disruption. Other challenges include capacity constraints in Dublin and tourism ‘hotspots’.

Of course, Brexit dominates all other uncertainties. Britain is a vital market for tourism to Ireland; it delivers 38% of all overseas visitors to Ireland and around 21% of all overseas tourism revenue. Most tourism companies around Ireland will be affected by Brexit, so continuing to defend our share of this most competitive market is essential. The shift in the sterling/euro exchange rate has impacted our competitiveness and has exacerbated the perception of higher prices here than in Britain; it has also made Britain more affordable for visitors from many of our top markets.

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 visitor figures for the first half of 2018. 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 +6.7% in visitor numbers in the first half of the year, when compared to the same period in 2017, is welcome. The tourism sector continues to prosper and, in doing so, it benefits the wider economy in terms of revenue and jobs. The sector now sustains approximately 240,000 jobs in communities around the country. It is essential that we sustain this growth from as wide a range of markets as possible in the face of challenges such as Brexit, oil prices and other international economic uncertainties. There is no doubt that competitiveness and value for money are vital to sustaining growth in the industry in the next few years. The continued growth of the sector over the last number of years is testament to the great work being done all across the sector and today, I want to congratulate Tourism Ireland on their continued success in marketing the island of Ireland abroad as a tourist destination.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to report growth of +6.7% in overseas visitors to Ireland for the first half of 2018, an additional 307,000 visitors when compared with January to June 2017. We have seen an excellent performance so far from North America – up +10.7% on the first half in 2017, 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 (+10.2%), with important markets like Germany, Italy and the Nordic Region all recording really good growth.

“While we very much welcome this first-half performance, we are certainly not complacent and are aware of the need to address certain challenges to sustain growth into the future. The impact of Brexit on outbound travel from Britain remains a concern. The fall in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors and has made Britain more affordable for visitors from many of our top markets. Ireland needs to be seen as offering an excellent value-for-money holiday experience, so competitiveness and value for money remain more important than ever in Britain.”

Summary of the first half of the year:

  • CSO figures for the first half of 2018 confirm growth of +6.7% in overseas visitors to Ireland, an additional 307,000 visitors when compared with January to June 2017.
  • The CSO figures can be broken down as follows:                                                              
    • Britain                                                          +2.3%   
    • North America                                           +10.7%
    • Mainland Europe                                       +10.2%
         -   Germany                                                +21.2%
         -   Italy                                                         +14%
         -   Nordic region                                        +10.2%
         -   Benelux                                                  +3%
    • Australia and Developing Markets       +1.1%

Looking forward:

  • Global campaigns reach hundreds of millions: Tourism Ireland’s global campaigns will reach hundreds of millions of prospective visitors worldwide this year.
  • Tourism Ireland’s market diversification strategy: this strategy, in place since 2014, focuses more effort on those markets with a longer stay and higher spend. It has seen Mainland Europe become the largest contributor of overseas tourism revenue, delivering almost €1.9 billion (+7%) in 2017, and North America overtake Britain as number two with €1.6 billion (+13%).
  • Strong online and social media presence: Tourism Ireland continues to leverage its strength in digital and social media. Its global website,, attracted 19.2 million unique visits in 2017; and visits to the site are up around +5.6% so far this year. Tourism Ireland is the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (after Australia, the United States and Turkey), with more than 4.26 million fans; the number four tourism board on Twitter; and the number three tourism board on YouTube.
  • Air access up +7% in summer 2018: Getting to Ireland has never been easier and summer 2018 sees an estimated 591,000 direct, one-way air seats available each week, a +7% increase in capacity on summer 2017. Important new routes from our main markets this year have included a new Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Dublin and a new Hainan Airlines service from Beijing to Dublin, Ireland’s first ever direct flights from the Asia-Pacific region; new Aer Lingus flights from Seattle and Philadelphia; Air Canada services between Toronto and Shannon and between Montreal and Dublin; a new daily Air France flight from Paris to Cork; as well as increased Ryanair services from Germany. Brittany Ferries’ twice-weekly, direct service form Spain is in operation for the summer season and the company has doubled its frequency from France. As an island, direct, convenient and competitive access services are critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism.
  • Positive publicity worth €330 million: Tourism Ireland interacts with around 22,000 influential travel, lifestyle and special interest journalists across the world each year; they also invite influential travel and lifestyle journalists to visit the island of Ireland to sample our holiday experiences for themselves. This activity helps to generate positive publicity about Ireland in the international media worth about €330 million in equivalent advertising value (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 2018.
  • With many of the summer air services set to continue into the winter, Tourism Ireland will work closely with the airlines and airports, to grow tourism in the shoulder and off-seasons.
  • Tourism Ireland’s busy autumn promotional schedule will include:
    • ‘Jump into Ireland’ travel trade and media blitz in California (San Fernando Valley, Orange County and Silicon Valley); 
    • IFTM (International French Travel Market) in Paris, the largest travel trade exhibition in France; and a trade networking event in Offenbach, in Germany;
    • Sales mission to Australia and New Zealand;
    • ‘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.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland; Tourism Minister Shane Ross; and Joan O’Shaughnessy, 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 300,000 people across the island.
  • In 2017, we welcomed approximately 10.6 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of about €5.6 billion.
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, 29 market sites available in 11 language versions around the world, which attracted around 19.2 million visitors in 2017.