CSO data released today shows that the number of overseas visits to Ireland for the 1st quarter of 2017 was 1.796 million, which was an increase of 0.6% compared to the same quarter in 2016.
Shane Ross T.D., Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport commented on the data: “2016 was a record year for Irish tourism both in terms of the numbers of overseas visitors and the associated revenue generated by them. It is going to be a challenge to continue this upward curve but the increase in visitors in the first quarter is encouraging. I am particularly pleased with the increase in visitors from North America, which registered an increase in visits of 23.2%.
Whilst the overall figures remain positive, the first quarter of 2017 has seen a drop in the number of visits from Great Britain. This provides an indication of the challenge the Irish tourism industry is facing following Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. It is a challenge that the Government will meet, working with the tourism agencies and the industry. A key focus will be market diversification and this week the Secretary General of my Department, Graham Doyle, is attending Tourism Ireland’s 2017 China Sales Mission, which aims to enhance and widen networking and business ties between the Irish Industry and leading Chinese travel trade partners and airlines.”
Comparing the three-month period Jan ‘17 – Mar ‘17 with the period Jan ’16 – Mar’16:
- Overall visits to Ireland were up by 0.6% to 1.796 million visits;
- North America was up by 23.2%;
- Great Britain registered a decrease of -6.5%;
- Visits from Mainland Europe decreased by -0.6%;
- Visits from the rest of the world increased by 16%.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan T.D. added: “While it is a concern to see a drop in the number of visits from Great Britain, it is important to note that overall overseas visit numbers for Q-1 2017 increased by 0.6% compared to the same period in 2016. The target set out in our policy statement “People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025” is to grow overseas visit numbers to 10 million by 2025 and we are still on track to achieve this target. Competitiveness and value for money are more important now than ever.”
Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland stated: “I am pleased to see growth of 1% for the three-month period January-March 2017, coming on the back of six years of solid growth in overseas tourism. Particularly welcome is the continued strong performance from North America with over +23.2% in the first three months. 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, from more gateways across the US and Canada.
“Visitor numbers from Australia and Developing Markets for the first three months are also really strong, up 16%. We’re seeing the benefit of our sales missions to Australia/New Zealand, China, India and the Middle East in 2016. Tourism Ireland’s 2017 sales mission to China is currently underway in a bid to increase our share of this rapidly-growing tourism market.
“While visitors from Mainland Europe were flat during the January to March period – it is encouraging to see important markets like France (+9.8%) and Spain (+4.5%) continue to perform well. The fall in British visitors (-6%) reflects the economic situation. The drop in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors; and economic uncertainty is making British travellers more cautious about their discretionary spending. This is impacting on travel to Ireland. We will continue to monitor developments around Brexit closely, to better understand and plan for its implications and will be meeting tourism industry leaders again next week. Competitiveness and value for money will be a more important message than ever throughout 2017.”
Paul Kelly CEO of Fáilte Ireland emphasised: “It’s important to note that, in comparing the results for the first quarter of 2017, Easter occurred in March in 2016 and that may account for some of the softening. However, the trend in British numbers is concerning. In a post-Brexit environment, the tourism sector needs to maintain its competitive edge particularly in terms of a weakening sterling which not only makes Ireland more expensive for British visitors but makes Britain a more competitive destination for those other overseas visitors we are seeking to bring here. Market diversification will also be important and tourism businesses will need to look to other international markets as well as fighting hard to continue to attract visitors from the UK. To that end, Fáilte Ireland will be working with Tourism Ireland and tourism businesses throughout the country to help them recalibrate and diversify to tap into growth in other markets.”