Another Record Year for Overseas Visitors

Thursday 21 December 2017

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin TD, today welcomed the latest official data on overseas travel from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which showed an increase of 3.7% in overseas visits to Ireland for the first eleven months of 2017 compared to the same period of 2016.

Commenting on the figures, Minister Ross said: “CSO data released today all but confirms that we are on target for another record breaking year for tourism. There have been almost 9.25 million visits to Ireland in the first eleven months of 2017, representing a 3.7% increase on 2016. It is a notable achievement to build on the excellent performance of 2016, not least in view of the immediate impact of Brexit arising from the associated depreciation of Sterling. That said, these latest figures show signs of stabilisation in the British market and that is to be welcomed.

Building on this year’s success and developing sustainable growth into the future is our priority for 2018. Tourism Ireland will focus its investment on the basis of market potential and will continue to implement its market diversification strategy. In this context, it was great to hear of tourism businesses receiving the ‘Chinese Tourist Welcome’ quality label from Fáilte Ireland in recent days – this example of industry engagement in market diversification is very welcome.

Value for money will continue to be a key message for us next year, particularly in Britain, and I am confident that industry will play its part in relation to this too. Given the time of year, I would like to wish everybody in the industry a Happy Christmas and a successful 2018. I would like to offer thanks to Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland for the good work they have put in during the year to help ensure the continued success of tourism.”

Today’s CSO figures on Overseas Travel show that, for the period January-November 2017:

  • At 9,249,700 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 3.7% compared to the same period in 2016.
  • Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 5.5%, to 3,267,500 visits
  • North America registered an increase of 16.6% (1,982,000 visits)
  • Visits from Great Britain were down by -5.2% (3,430,500 visits)
  • Visits from the rest of the world (mostly long-haul and developing markets) grew by 13.1% (569,600 visits)

Minister Griffin stated “CSO data published today is very encouraging with a year-on-year growth of 3.7% in overseas visits for the first eleven months of the year. I was also pleased to see the results of the CSO’s Household Travel Survey published yesterday which showed year on year growth of 5.2% in expenditure on domestic trips for the first nine months of 2017. I note that Fáilte Ireland’s latest Tourism Barometer reports that sentiment remains strong in tourism. The agency will focus strongly in 2018 on improving seasonality and regionality. This is vital to achieve sustainable growth in the sector.

The tourism industry makes an impact in every type of community in the country, both rural and urban. The strong performance in the sector is underpinning job creation throughout the country, something I have seen first-hand since I came into the role of Minister of State. I look forward to continuing to work closely with both the industry and the tourism agencies in 2018 to keep tourism growing.”

Commenting on the CSO Overseas Travel figures, Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “2017 is set to be another record year for Irish tourism and today’s CSO figures confirm that we welcomed almost 9.25 million overseas visitors during January to November. This represents growth of +3.7% – or 330,000 additional visitors – on the same eleven-month period last year. We have seen exceptional results from North America this year – almost 2 million visitors so far, up +16.6% on January to November last year. I also welcome the growth in visitor numbers from Australia and developing markets (+13.1%); and from Mainland Europe (+5.5%), with important markets like Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Nordic Region all recording strong growth. Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors.

The decline in visitor numbers from Britain continues to be a concern, down -5.2% for the January to November period. 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. In 2018, Tourism Ireland will continue to place a greater focus on our ‘culturally curious’ audience, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations. However, competitiveness and the value for money message remain more important than ever in Britain right now.  We have a number of campaigns under way right now, to kick-start our promotional effort for 2018.”

Commenting today on the figures, Fáilte Ireland Director of Business Development Paul Keeley emphasised: “There is no denying that 2017 was another great year for tourism businesses. However, as our most recent Fáilte Ireland barometer of tourism sentiment indicated, confidence within the sector has slightly softened. Brexit, and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding it, have injected a note of hesitancy despite tourism’s recent growth. The focus for tourism businesses facing into 2018 must be twofold: remain competitive and provide value for money; and minimise their risk by diversifying their market mix. While we will still continue to fight for British business, it is important that those tourism enterprises overexposed to British and Northern Irish trade now pivot to other more buoyant markets. Fáilte Ireland, through its ‘Get Brexit Ready’ programme, has been working with hundreds of businesses to do just that and will continue to do so in 2018.”

Press Office, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, 01 604 1090 / 01 604 1093

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