Minister’s welcome strong tourism performance

Monday 28 January 2019

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, today (Monday) welcomed the latest official overseas visitor data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which confirmed that 2018 continued the upwards trend Irish tourism has enjoyed in recent years. For the full year, overseas visitor numbers grew by 6.9%.

Commenting on the figures, Minister Ross T.D. said: ‘Last year we saw another year of growth for Irish tourism which further underlined the value of the sector to the economy. I am very encouraged that the growth we saw last year came from a number of markets. North America performed well as did Europe, with key markets such as Germany and Italy growing strongly. In addition, long-haul and developing markets also delivered good returns. Whilst the British market was somewhat flat, this is not surprising given the uncertainty attaching to Brexit. Overall, though, it is heartening to see market diversification is driving our growth.

In 2019, the aim is to continue to grow and diversify our overseas markets and, at the same time, encourage tourists to visit not just the traditional destinations when they get here but less well-known places too. From a policy perspective, the new Tourism Action Plan I published last month identifies a number of actions which will help us to achieve this. In addition, the extra funding I made available to the agencies in the Budget will provide fresh impetus this year in terms of both product development and marketing. Following the expansion of the sector in recent years, we are in the position where we should focus more on the quality of the growth in coming years. ‘

Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D stated This full-year visitor data confirms what we already knew about 2018 – that it was another good year for overseas visitors with growth from North America and Europe central to the strong performance. North America has always been an important market for tourism here but the performance in recent years has been exceptional. It now accounts for one-third of all revenue we receive from overseas visitors. Today, I am delighted to be accompanying Tourism Ireland on their North American Marketing Plan launch as the agency seeks to build on the excellent work of recent years. I am very much looking forward to see what the agency is planning for 2019, particularly in view of the new market strategy it is implementing in the USA.

The outlook for 2019 is positive but I remain conscious that Brexit is a big concern for many in the industry. Whilst the British market stabilised in 2018, I was very pleased to see Fáilte Ireland’s recent announcement that it is ramping up its efforts to help prepare tourism businesses for the challenges Brexit is likely to bring. These supports will be targeted at those areas most vulnerable to any decline in the British market. I encourage the sector to engage with Fáilte Ireland and avail of these supports.’

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: ‘Today’s figures confirm that 2018 was another record year for overseas tourism to Ireland, with more than 10.6 million overseas arrivals – an increase of +6.9%, or 684,200 additional overseas arrivals, when compared with 2017.

We’ve seen excellent results from North America in 2018 – with almost 2.4 million visitors, up +13.4% on 2017. Ireland 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 (+6.7%); and from Mainland Europe (+9.5%), with important markets like Germany and Italy recording really good growth. Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors. Tourism Ireland has prioritised North America and Mainland Europe, as markets which offer a strong return on investment, in terms of holiday visitors and expenditure.

While we welcome the fact that arrivals from Britain are up almost +1%, the continued uncertainty around Brexit, and its impact on outbound travel from Britain, remains a real concern. Our focus now is on the year ahead. Tourism Ireland’s campaigns are in full swing, to build on the success of 2018. Our aim is to grow overseas tourism revenue in 2019 to €6.5 billion, for the island of Ireland.’

Meanwhile, Paul Kelly, chief executive of Fáilte Ireland commented: ‘Today’s CSO figures show that Ireland’s tourism industry experienced its most successful year ever on record. At Fáilte Ireland, we have been very much focused on driving a more seasonal spread of these growing tourist numbers, which is vital in helping tourism businesses to stay open longer. This strategy, including our season extension programmes in local towns across the country, are paying dividends which is evidenced in the strong growth recorded in the final months of the year. Our own industry barometer reflects this growth, with tourism businesses telling us that a strong autumn season boosted their overall annual performance.

Despite the fact that Britain has been underperforming as a result of the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, visitor numbers remain high. Fáilte Ireland has also been working closely with tourism businesses to diversify into other markets to offset this dip in performance from our biggest source market. The strong growth we’ve seen in the North American and German markets in particular, as well as continued growth in new and emerging markets, is testament to the tourism industry’s ability to adapt and diversify.  

Our December barometer also shows that the number one concern among tourism businesses in the year ahead is Brexit, particularly those in northern counties. At Fáilte Ireland we are significantly ramping up our activities to ensure Irish tourism is both ‘product-ready’ and ‘industry-ready’ ahead of the UK withdrawal from the EU, with a €5million fund to support the sector as it prepares for Brexit. It is crucial now that the industry remains as competitive as possible despite ongoing cost pressures. There is no doubt that Brexit poses a significant threat to the ongoing success of our tourism industry and, with the increasing likelihood of a no-deal, as well other unforeseen political and economic developments in the US and Northern Europe, the sector will need to continue to show agility and resilience in the months ahead.’

Ends
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Initial Publication Date: 
28/01/2019