Overseas visitor numbers continue to grow

CSO data released today shows that the number of overseas visits to Ireland in the first five months of 2017 increased by 3.1% compared to the corresponding period in 2016.

Shane Ross T.D., Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport commented on the data:  Today’s figures from the CSO show that the number of overseas visitors to Ireland increased by over 3% in the first five months of 2017. As we approach the peak season, it is particularly encouraging to note that visitor numbers from all areas apart from Britain have increased, with North America particularly buoyant. As expected, there is a significant drop in the number of visitors from Great Britain but I know that the tourism agencies are working to counteract the effects of this on those areas most affected. It is important to remember that 2016 was a record breaking year for Irish tourism and when compared to 2015 figures, overall visitor numbers are still up by over 17%. I remain optimistic that we will see further overall growth in the peak season.”

Comparing the period to the end of May with the same period in 2016:

  • Overall trips to Ireland were up by 3.1% to 3.572 million visits;
  • North America was up by 23.6% to 0.663 million;
  • Visits from Mainland Europe were up by 4.0% to 1.261 million;
  • Visits from the rest of the world increased by 21.7%, to 0.213 million;
  • Great Britain registered a decrease of -6.8% with 1.435 million.  

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin T.D. added:I was delighted to be appointed Minister of State for Tourism and Sport last week. I look forward to working closely with the tourism agencies and industry to further develop Ireland’s tourism offering. I am well aware of the importance of tourism in the local economy, particularly in rural areas. These figures confirm for me that tourism has made terrific progress in recent years and I am committed to building on that progress.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: I am pleased to see growth of more than +3% for the five-month period January-May, coming on the back of a record performance in 2016 and years of solid growth in overseas tourism. It is also encouraging that this was the best ever month of May for Irish tourism. Particularly welcome is the continued strong performance from North America, with an increase of +23.6% for January to May. 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, from more gateways across the US and Canada. Visitor numbers from Australia and Developing Markets for the first five months of 2017 are also really strong, up +21.7%. And arrivals from Mainland Europe grew by 4% – with important markets like France, Germany, Spain and Italy continuing to perform well.

“As anticipated, the currency challenge for Irish tourism is very real and the drop in British visitor numbers (-6.8%) for the January to May period reflects that. The decline in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors; and economic uncertainty is undoubtedly making British travellers more cautious about their discretionary spending. This is impacting on travel to Ireland. 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. We continue to monitor developments around Brexit closely, to better understand and plan for its implications.” 

Commenting on today’s results, Director of Enterprise Development for Fáilte Ireland, Paul Keeley pointed out: “Today’s figures reinforce the trends we have been seeing over the last few months which are that in the wake of Brexit and the weakening sterling the British market is suffering. Furthermore, the growth in other markets also reinforces the importance and potential of diversification in these current market conditions.

“Fáilte Ireland’s focus for 2017 is on working with the tourism industry to help them adapt to the changes in the British market, maintain a competitive edge that will continue to attract visitors from areas with weaker currency, and support Irish businesses to cast their net wide enough to ensure that Ireland continues the visitor growth we enjoyed last year.”