CSO Data Confirms Record Year for Overseas Visitors in 2017

Thursday 25 January 2018

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross T.D., and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., today welcomed the publication of official data on overseas travel for 2017 from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which showed an increase of +3.6% in overseas visits to Ireland for 2017 compared to 2016. There was a record number of overseas visits to Ireland in 2017 at 9,932,100.

Commenting on the tourism figures, Minister Ross T.D. said: “Figures released by the CSO today confirm that 2017 has been a record-breaking year for overseas visits to Ireland. This is a fantastic achievement given that 2016 was an exceptional year in its own right and, also, in view of the fall in visitor numbers from our largest market, Great Britain. Looking to this year, the additional €2 million I secured in Budget 2018 for investment in digital infrastructure will underpin Tourism Ireland’s efforts to reach more people through their online marketing campaigns. Funding allocated to Fáilte Ireland will help to further develop the product offering, including a new brand for the Midlands, while the publication of a strategy for the future development of Greenways will set out a framework by which we can develop more of these wonderful attractions around the country.

Furthermore, the retention of the 9% VAT rate will help the sector to stay competitive. Retaining competiveness is vital for the industry, particularly as we try to grow new markets. In this context, the recent announcement by the Minister for Justice and Equality that nationals from the United Arab Emirates will not be required to obtain visas to visit Ireland will provide a great boost to Tourism Ireland’s promotional efforts in that market.”

Today’s CSO figures on Overseas Travel show:

  • At over 9.932 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 3.6% in 2017 compared to 2016.
  • Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 5.5% in 2017, to 3,482,400 visits
  • North America registered an increase of 16.2% for 2017 (2,101,500 visits)
  • Visits from Great Britain were down by 5% for 2017 (3,728,900 visits)
  • Visits from the rest of the world (mostly long-haul and developing markets) totalled 619,300 for 2017 (representing an increase of 12.6%).

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., said: "It is very encouraging that visit numbers for 2017 surpassed the record breaking numbers achieved in 2016. I was delighted to attend the launch of Tourism Ireland’s German Market Review yesterday. The Department and our agencies are already busy building on the fantastic performance in 2017. The one downside to the 2017 figures was the decline in British visitors. I have been working closely with both Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland on this issue and am satisfied that the measures we are taking to date and future initiatives planned are helping to address the concerns of the industry around this. One such initiative will launch tomorrow, which will be a major rural tourism marketing initiative focussing on the western seaboard and air access from Britain to the Wild Atlantic Way."

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s figures confirm that 2017 was another record-breaking year for overseas tourism to Ireland, with almost 10 million people arriving here – an increase of almost +4%, or 347,700 additional overseas visitors, when compared with 2016. We’ve seen exceptional results from North America in 2017 – more than 2.1 million visitors, up over +16% on 2016. Ireland now welcomes 10% of all American visitors to Europe – particularly noteworthy given the intense competition from other destinations. We have also seen record numbers arriving here from Australia and developing markets (almost +13%); and from Mainland Europe (+5%), with important markets like Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Nordic Region all recording really good 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% in 2017. 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. Our focus now is on the year ahead. Tourism Ireland’s campaigns are in full swing, to build on the success of 2017. Our aim is to grow overseas tourism revenue in 2018 by +5%, to €6 billion, for the island of Ireland.”

Responding to today’s CSO figures, Paul Keeley, Director of Commercial Development with Fáilte Ireland said: “This set of full year figures for 2017 confirms what tourism businesses have been telling us throughout the last year.  Britain was down, Europe was up and North America was spectacular. Obviously the drop in our largest overseas market (in terms of volume) is very concerning and this year will be equally challenging.  We are working with hundreds of businesses throughout the country to help them ‘Get Brexit Ready’ and target those pools of best potential within Britain.  We are also working with businesses to diversify and gear their business towards other markets which we expect to be stronger – Europe and the US obviously but also emerging markets like China.

Last year, 2017, is now over and done.  At the beginning of every year the clock is reset to zero and tourism has to pick itself up and win business all over again.  If we are to sustain the impressive growth of previous years, we will need to continue to invest in visitor attractions and experiences; we will need to ensure that our offering on the ground appeals to those overseas markets with best potential; and crucially tourism businesses will need to maintain their competitiveness in a world of volatile exchange rates and strong consumer preferences for value for money.”

Press Office, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, 01 604 1090 / 01 604 1093 www.dttas.ie pressoffice@dttas.ie

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