Ministers welcome confirmation of increased Tourism Revenue in 2018

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Data published by the CSO today confirms that revenue associated with overseas visitors continued to grow to over €5 billion in 2018. The detailed figures from the CSO show that spending in Ireland by overseas visitors (excluding fares) for the year rose by 5.6% compared with 2017. The data also shows that revenue from the key target market of holidaymakers rose by 12.6% over the same period. The figures are published in the CSO’s Tourism and Travel Q4 release. The figures are based on detailed surveys of overseas visitors and the release also contains detailed information on expenditure, purpose of visit, and bednights.

The figures confirm that Mainland Europe and North America were the main drivers of this growth in tourism revenue. Long-haul markets also delivered increased revenue whilst Britain registered a slight decline compared to 2017. In terms of the expenditure associated with overseas visits, figures for 2018, compared to 2017, show that: 

  • Overall, revenue was up by 5.6% to €5.149bn
  • North America increased by 13.9% to €1.735bn
  • Mainland Europe increased by 4.5% to €1.846bn
  • Great Britain decreased by 2.6% to €0.981bn
  • Other (long-haul) markets increased by 1.7%  to €0.587bn

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Ross T.D. said: “Data released by the CSO today confirms what we already knew - that 2018 was a very encouraging year for tourism. The revenue generated by visitors from North America and Mainland Europe, particularly Germany, ensured we saw strong growth of 5.6% compared to 2017.

The data shows that the market diversification strategy implemented by Tourism Ireland has paid dividends for Ireland, with more visitors from markets proven to stay longer and spend more. Today, I will travel to the UAE to promote Ireland and Irish interests over the St Patrick’s Day period. While there, I will work with Tourism Ireland to increase the awareness of Ireland as a holiday destination in the UAE. This is one of the emerging markets from which we hope to see further growth in the coming years. In this context, I have allocated additional funding to the agency to implement its Emerging Market Strategy this year.

Of course the St. Patrick’s Day period is a great opportunity to raise the awareness of Ireland abroad. I recently attended the launch of Tourism Ireland’s 2019 Global Greening initiative which has grown to become a significant worldwide reminder of both St. Patrick’s Day and also of Ireland and its appeal as a visitor destination. The Global Greening Initiative will no doubt help to boost Tourism Ireland’s new ‘Fill Your Heart with Ireland’ marketing campaign and continue to raise Ireland’s profile in targeted overseas markets”.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D. said "The continued growth of overseas revenue through 2018 was hugely positive, even more so given the strong performance of previous years.

We want to continue to grow the industry, but in a way that is sustainable. Last week, I travelled to the ITB in Berlin which is the largest travel trade fair in the world. One of the hard-hitting realities of attending an event of this scale is seeing what Ireland is up against overseas and how competitive the international travel industry is. It highlights the importance for our industry of being competitive and staying competitive.

I remain conscious that Brexit is a continuing worry for many in the industry. I will travel to Scotland this week and I will be emphasising that Britain continues to be a vital market for Irish tourism and it will remain so. Nevertheless, it is vital that tourism businesses utilise the supports offered by Fáilte Ireland to help prepare for the post-Brexit environment. Part of this involves being ready to accommodate visitors from other markets. Overall though, the revenue growth in 2018 is really good news and we are well equipped to grow this even further into the future.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s CSO figures are very positive, confirming that revenue from overseas visitors to Ireland grew by almost +6% during 2018, an additional €275 million for the Irish economy compared with 2017. Total overseas visitor numbers increased by +6%; and within the total number of overseas visitors to Ireland, holiday visitors grew by +11% during 2018 – 525,000 additional holiday visitors. Particularly welcome was the continued strong performance from North America, with visitor numbers up +13% and an increase of almost +14% in spending by US and Canadian visitors – an outstanding performance. Tourism Ireland’s market diversification strategy has prioritised North America as a market which offers strong return on investment. We have also seen strong growth in visitor numbers from Mainland Europe (+10%) and from our long-haul markets, including Australia (+7%). While visitor numbers from Britain increased by +1%, spend by British visitors declined by -2.6% – reflecting currency fluctuations and the continued uncertainty around Brexit, which remains a real concern.

“Tourism Ireland’s new Fill Your Heart with Ireland campaign is rolling out around the world, to build on the success of 2018. Our promotions will receive a tremendous boost this weekend, with our Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day which is even bigger and better than ever before – with 425 sites in 53 different countries signed up to take part. St Patrick’s Day traditionally marks the real start of the tourism season for us and we will be taking every opportunity to capitalise on Ireland’s heightened profile.”

Fáilte Ireland’s CEO Paul Kelly said: “The full set of figures for 2018 confirms that last year was a ‘best-ever’ for tourism. There are now 260,000 people estimated to be employed in the sector, an increase of 20,000 since 2017. As the country’s largest indigenous industry, Irish tourism has made a great impact in recent years, but as a sector we cannot rest on our laurels if we are to sustain this success. Today’s figures show a significant decline in the British market – a concerning trend in our biggest source market and one of the biggest challenges the industry will face in the coming year. Brexit remains the dark cloud on the horizon and its impact is likely to be felt far beyond the loss of visitors from our nearest market. We are also at risk of losing tourists from other core markets as the UK is our main competitor and the weakening value of Sterling could make it more attractive to long-haul tourists, as well as those from Northern Europe.

“That’s why it is more important now than ever that the industry not only diversifies into other markets, but also provides strong value for money as well as a compelling and competitive offer to tourists. At Fáilte Ireland, we have invested heavily in supporting businesses to broaden into other markets. We are working with tourism businesses of all sizes in every corner of the country to ensure they have a robust Brexit plan in place in order to build on the success of 2018 and drive further growth in tourism to increase economic contribution, employment and Exchequer revenue.”

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