Overseas Visitors up 4.2% in the first half of the year

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, today welcomed CSO data released which shows that the number of overseas visits to Ireland in the first six months of 2017 increased by 4.2% compared to the corresponding period in 2016.


Minister Ross commented on the release: “Official CSO figures for the first half of 2017 published today show that Irish tourism is enjoying another positive year, with the number of overseas visitors to Ireland increasing by over 4% for the first half of the year compared to the corresponding period in 2016. Following the strong growth in recent years, it was always going to be a challenge to grow the numbers further this year. For that reason, I am very encouraged by the results for the first half of the year, particularly the figures for North America. Nonetheless, everyone involved in Irish tourism knows that we are not immune to the economic uncertainty in Britain, our largest overseas source market in terms of visitor numbers. I will continue to remain vigilant on this front but, overall, the picture remains positive.”


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


  • Overall trips to Ireland were up by 4.2% to 4.566 million visits;
  • North America was up by 21.6% to 0.922 million visits;
  • Visits from Mainland Europe were up by 5.9% to 1.618 million visits;
  • Visits from the rest of the world increased by 20.6% to 0.28 million visits;
  • Great Britain registered a decrease of 6.4% to 1.745 million visits.


Minister Griffin added: “Looking at the figures for the first half of the year provides a good insight into our projected annual performance. I know from my engagement with the industry since my appointment as Minister that tourism is in a good place overall. At the same time, I am conscious that some areas are more exposed than others to the fall-off in the British market and I know that the tourism agencies are working to counteract this. One thing that has struck me since I have taken up my role is the importance of the industry maintaining competitiveness, particularly in light of economic uncertainty in Britain. If the progress of recent years is to be maintained, it is vital that we do not lose our reputation as a value for money destination.”

Commenting on the CSO figures, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to see growth of +4.2% for the period January-June, coming on the back of a record performance in 2016 and years of solid growth in overseas tourism. It is encouraging that this was the best ever month of June for Irish tourism, with almost 1 million arrivals (+8% on June 2016). As anticipated, the currency challenge for Irish tourism is very real and the drop in British visitor numbers (-6.4%) for the January to June 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.

“Particularly welcome in today’s CSO figures is the continued strong performance from North America, with an increase of +21.6%. 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 half of 2017 are also really strong, up +20.6%. And arrivals from Mainland Europe grew by almost +6% – with important markets like Germany, France and Spain continuing to perform well.”


Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland stated:  “This growth of 4.2% is to be welcomed and it has certainly been buoyed up by a very impressive North American performance. However, that performance is also masking a worrying trend downwards in the British market as a weakening sterling makes Ireland more expensive for British visitors. It is crucial that tourism businesses now keep a sharp focus on competitiveness. The weakening Sterling also makes Britain a much more  competitive destination for many of those future visitors who may be deciding whether to come here or visit our neighbours instead.

“We will continue to develop compelling tourism experiences on the ground to win back British trade but, in this Brexit environment, market diversification will be important and tourism businesses will need to look to other international markets to sustain growth. To that end, Fáilte Ireland will soon be launching a tailor-made Brexit Response Programme to help businesses recalibrate and diversify in order to tap growth in other markets and offset any Brexit-related repercussions.”