The Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Shane Ross T.D. and the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D. today welcomed the latest official data on overseas travel from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which showed an increase of 2.5% in overseas visits to Ireland for the first eight months of 2017 compared to the same period of 2016.
Commenting on the figures, Minister Ross stated: “The CSO figures released today cover the first eight months of 2017 including the peak tourism months of June, July and August. While I welcome the overall growth in visit numbers to Ireland during the peak summer months (+1.7%), the persistent decline in the numbers visiting from Great Britain continues to be a concern. Growth from North America, Mainland Europe and Other Areas has allowed us to maintain upward momentum. However, these figures show that we cannot become complacent as the overall growth rate has slowed somewhat. At a meeting last week of the Tourism Leadership Group, Minister Griffin and I reviewed progress on the Tourism Action Plan 2016-2018 and also commenced discussions on the Tourism Action Plan 2018-2020 which will be drafted later this year. My Department and the tourism agencies are working closely with the tourism industry to prepare effectively for an ever more competitive international tourism market. We are well aware that the strong performance overall this year is no guarantee that things will stay the same in 2018.”
The latest CSO figures on Overseas Travel show:
· At 6,714,600 visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 2.5% in the first eight months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
· Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 3.2% for January to August 2017 (2,383,400 visits);
· North America registered an increase of 17.9% for January – August 2017 (1,419,400 visits);
· Visits from Great Britain decreased by -7.1% for January – August 2017 (2,483,200 visits).
· Visits from the rest of the world, mostly long-haul and developing markets, were up by 16.9% totalling 428,600 visits.
Minister Griffin added: “I am pleased to see that the CSO data confirms that Overseas Visitor numbers are still growing. This increase in visit numbers and the associated revenue are underpinning job creation throughout the country. These jobs are vital to local economies. Next week I will attend Tourism Ireland’s Flavours of Ireland event in London. This is a fantastic networking opportunity for Irish Industry to meet with over 100 representatives from UK-based operators who distribute Irish product via a global sales and marketing network. I will also be attending a meeting involving travel trade representatives in Britain and our own industry to discuss tourism in the context of Brexit. I have no doubt that one of the strong messages for Irish operators at both events will be to ensure that competitiveness is safeguarded.”
Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland stated: “Today’s figures confirm that we welcomed 6,714,600 million overseas visitors during the period January to August this year. This represents growth of +2.5% – or 161,800 additional visitors –on the same eight-month period last year, coming on the back of a record performance in 2016 and years of solid growth in overseas tourism.
“North America and our long-haul markets continue to perform very well. Arrivals from North America are up +17.9% for January to August; and visitors from Australia and Developing Markets grew by +16.9% in the same period. Arrivals from Mainland Europe also grew by +3.2%. Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors.”
“However, the decline in visitor numbers from Britain continues to be a real concern, down -7.1% for the January to August period. The fall in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors and made Britain more affordable for visitors from many of our top markets. Economic uncertainty is also making British travellers more cautious about their discretionary spending, which is impacting on travel to Ireland. This year, Tourism Ireland has placed a greater focus on our ‘culturally curious’ audience, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations. However, competitiveness and the value for money message are more important than ever in Britain right now.
“Tourism Ireland’s extensive autumn campaign is in full swing, to promote late season holidays and boost travel into the early part of 2018. We are rolling out a really comprehensive promotional programme in Britain and around the world.”
Commenting on today’s CSO data, Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly said: “Today’s CSO figures reflect the key tourism season and give us a clearer picture of the current state of play. Overall, the rate of growth has slowed to 2.5% by the end of August, down from 3.1% at the end of July. While North America continues to perform strongly, the rate of growth in Europe has softened and the decline in British numbers has accelerated. On the basis of today’s figures, Fáilte Ireland has revised upwards its estimate of the impact Brexit is having on the sector. We now estimated that, by the end of this year, Brexit will have deprived us of 345,000 visitors - representing €100m in revenue and an estimated 2,500 tourism jobs. While on a national level this loss is being compensated by strong performances in the American and other markets, for those regions that are heavily reliant on British and Northern Irish visitors, Brexit is having a real impact.
“The trends discerned today highlight the crucial need for Irish tourism to remain competitive and the onus on all tourism stakeholders to ensure that we do offer good value for money. In terms of Brexit, Fáilte Ireland is rolling out its new Get Brexit Ready programme around the country to help businesses at risk or already struggling with the loss of trade created by Brexit. Our key messages in that programme are the need for improved competitiveness, market diversification and specific strategies for retaining British business.”