Minister for Transport, Tourism & 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 3.1% in overseas visits to Ireland for the first seven months of 2017 compared to the same period of 2016.
Commenting on the figures, Minister Ross stated: “I am pleased to welcome today’s information from the CSO which confirms the on-going strong performance in overseas visitors. As the year has progressed, we have seen evidence of the success of the market diversification strategy which Tourism Ireland has adopted in recent years. At Tourism Ireland’s recent Mid-Year Review of Overseas Tourism, we saw how the overall growth in visitor numbers is being driven by a number of markets, with North America delivering excellent growth but with strong performances also from Mainland Europe and long-haul markets such as Australia. The performance of the British market remains a concern but I am confident that the efforts of both Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland will help to minimise losses from this important market whilst at the same time encouraging and facilitating visitors from other sources”.
The latest CSO figures on Overseas Travel show:
· At 5.597 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 3.1% in the first seven months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
· Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 4.3% for January to July 2017 (1,993,800 visits);
· North America registered an increase of 17.4% for January – July 2017 (1,162,700 visits);
· Visits from Great Britain decreased by -6.2% for January – July 2017 (2,087,100 visits).
· Visits from the rest of the world, mostly long-haul and developing markets, were up by 17.5% totalling 353,500 visits.
Minister Griffin added: “The figures published today confirm that 2017 is on target to be another year of growth for Irish tourism. Notwithstanding this, the drop in the number of visits from Great Britain this year remains a concern, particularly for those regions with a greater reliance on British visitors. I recently met with Tourism Ireland officials in London and explored options to make Ireland even more attractive to the potential UK visitor. The depreciation in Sterling is the major factor involved but economic developments within GB are also having an impact. Whilst both Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland are taking steps to assist the industry in this regard, a fundamental factor in continuing to attract British visitors at this stage is value for money. It is therefore important now more than ever that the industry retains its competitiveness.”
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s figures confirm that we welcomed almost 5.6 million overseas visitors during January to July 2017. This represents growth of +3.1% on the same seven-month period last year, coming on the back of a record performance in 2016 and years of solid growth in overseas tourism. However, we are extremely conscious of the decline in tourist numbers we’ve seen for the month of July alone (-1.1%). As anticipated, the currency challenge for Irish tourism is very real and the drop in British visitor numbers (-6.2%) for the January to July 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. And, while North America and our long-haul markets continue to perform well, the double-digit growth we’ve seen in the earlier months of 2017 has now slowed. Arrivals from North America are up +17.4% for January to July (almost +4% for July only); and visitors from Australia and Developing Markets grew by +17.5% for January to July (+7% for July). Arrivals from Mainland Europe grew by +4.3% (-2% for July).”
Responding to today’s figures, Paul Kelly CEO of Fáilte Ireland stated: “We are very pleased to see that overall growth is up as the continuing and worrying UK decline has been compensated by a stellar North American performance. While we welcome the growth in US visitors we need to be conscious that, historically, US visitor numbers have been more volatile and can go down more quickly, therefore we need to keep driving growth in the UK and Europe as well as other markets.
“As we plan for 2018, it is imperative that keep a tight focus on competitiveness. The government has played its part in creating the right conditions for a competitive sector – particularly in terms of the highly effective VAT rate – but the industry must also step up to the plate and ensure that an Irish visit remains good value. If we were to lose our reputation as a good value destination, it may take us years to recover it.”