Ministers welcome CSO figures showing overseas visits are up by 12.3%

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan TD, today welcomed the latest official data on overseas travel from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which showed an increase of 12.3% in overseas visits to Ireland for the first eight months of 2016 compared to the same period of 2015. 

Commenting on the figures, Minister Ross said: ‘It is heartening for all those whose livelihoods depend on the tourism sector to know that Ireland’s appeal as a vibrant, welcoming and economical tourist destination continues to grow.

The figures today confirm an excellent first eight months of 2016 and summer period for Irish tourism, with all of our main overseas markets showing good growth levels. Visitors from North America are up 15.4% when compared to the same period in 2015. This is of great importance to the Irish tourism sector as visitors from North America tend to stay longer and spend more than the average visitor. I’m also very pleased to see an increase in visit numbers from our closest neighbour, Great Britain, an important and much valued guest.

The continued growth in overseas visit numbers is a clear signal that the policies being pursued by Government are the right ones to support the sector.

At a meeting of the Tourism Leadership Group last Monday (26th September), Minister O’Donovan and I reviewed progress on the Tourism Action Plan 2016-2018. My Department and the tourism agencies are working closely with the tourism industry to prepare effectively for an ever more competitive international tourism market, and I am pleased to note the considerable progress already made with regard to implementation of the Tourism Action Plan.’

Today’s CSO figures on Overseas Travel show:

  • At over 6.5 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 12.3% in the first eight months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. For the three-month period from June to August 2016, overseas trips to Ireland also increased by 10.8%.
  • Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 11.2% for January to August 2016, to 2,309,000 visits and by 10.8% for the June to August period. 
  • North America registered an increase of 15.4% for January – August 2016 (1,203,600 visits) and an increase of 13.2% in the June – August 2016 period;
  • Visits from Great Britain were up by 13.4% for January – August 2016 (2,673,600 visits) and by 10.5% for the three months from June to August 2016 compared to the corresponding period of 2015.
  • Visits from the rest of the world (mostly long-haul and developing markets) totalled 366,600 for the first eight months of 2016 (representing an increase of 2.7%) and increased by 4.7% for the three months from June to August.

Commenting on today’s statistics, Minister O’Donovan stated: ‘CSO data released today shows that, yet again, overseas visitors continue to come to our shores in record numbers. The number of visitors over the summer season increased by 10.8% when compared to the same period in 2015. The success of the tourism sector has led to real jobs with 220,000 people now employed in the tourism sector. While the peak summer season is now behind us, there are still many festivals to look forward to around the country.’

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: ‘Today’s figures indicate that this was the best ever month of August for Irish tourism, with more than 1.125 million arrivals recorded. It was also the best January to August period for overseas visitors to Ireland, with more than 6.55 million arrivals, representing an increase of +12.3% – 718,600 additional overseas visitors when compared with the first eight months of 2015. Our aim is to ensure that 2016 is another record-breaking year for Irish tourism. We have seen exceptional results from North America for January to August – up +15.4% on the same eight-month period in 2015. I also welcome the strong increase in British visitors (+13.4%). Mainland Europe has also turned in a superb performance (+11%), with important markets like Italy, Spain, France and Benelux all recording really good growth. This was a strong performance and reflects the sentiment we are hearing from our travel partners overseas, including tour operators and carriers, as well as tourism businesses here at home. We are determined to ensure that tourism growth continues. Our extensive autumn campaign is in full swing – aimed at boosting late-season travel to Ireland from around the globe and keeping this momentum going.’

Shaun Quinn, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, welcomed today’s figures and emphasised: ‘These figures confirm that we are heading for a record year for Irish tourism in 2016. This performance underlines the importance of the tourism sector and the role that recent growth has played in the national recovery, particularly in terms of increased earnings and employment – with an estimated 220,000 people now employed in the industry.

The priority now must be to sustain this growth into the long term.  This will need a continued favourable environment for tourism businesses on the ground and for air access into the country. Fáilte Ireland – through new brands such as the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient east – is focused on significantly sharpening our overseas appeal but tourism businesses also have a part to play and must remain competitive if Ireland is to continue to be attractive to potential international visitors.’