In the period March – May 2013, the total number of trips to Ireland increased by 8.1% to 1,771,700 - an overall increase of 132,000 compared to the same period twelve months earlier according to the CSO.
Trips by residents of North America to Ireland increased by 12.6% to 282,300. Trips by residents of European Countries other than Great Britain (Other Europe) increased by 9.6% to 676,000 while trips to Ireland from Other Areas increased by 3.2% to 87,000. Trips by residents of Great Britain increased by 5.6% to 726,300.
The total number of overseas trips made by Irish residents during the period March - May 2013 decreased by 0.3% to 1,518,100.
The total number of trips (Irish residents’ trips overseas plus trips to Ireland) in the period March to May 2013 increased by 4.0% to 3,289,800 when compared with the same period twelve months earlier. For the period March to May 2012, there was an annual decrease of 1.6% in the total number of trips taken when compared to the previous corresponding period.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s figures from the CSO for the March to May period suggest a positive start to 2013, with growth in overseas visitors for that period of +8%. It is encouraging to see growth from all market areas and, in particular, from Great Britain. The Gathering Ireland has certainly played a major role in helping boost visitor numbers in the first five months of the year.
“Certain markets are performing particularly well this year, including North America (+12.8%), with 2013 on course to be the strongest year ever from that market. We believe that Mainland Europe (+8.5%) will also be critical for tourism growth this year; it is really encouraging to see strong performances for the March to May period from important European markets like France (+26.3%), Germany (+6.1%), the Nordic region (+6%), and Benelux (+11%). This growth reflects the sentiment expressed by our industry partners, including tour operators and carriers, as well as some tourism businesses here at home.
“We know that Great Britain continues to be challenging, with the pace of economic recovery and weak consumer confidence still continuing to impact on outbound travel. However, despite these challenges, it is extremely encouraging to see growth of +2.8% for this three-month period. Tourism Ireland is rolling out a new plan in 2013, developed in conjunction with industry partners – called “GB Path to Growth”. The plan aims to grow the number of British holidaymakers by +20% i.e. an additional 200,000 holiday visitors per year by 2016. Given that outbound travel by Britons to all destinations is down -1% (to end April), today’s results for travel to Ireland are encouraging – indicating that the “GB Path to Growth” plan is beginning to take effect.”
Tourism Ireland believes that we are on course to achieve our best year ever from the United States; in 2013, we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about US$1 billion. This summer will see a significant increase – almost +27% – in the number of airline seats between the US and Ireland for the peak season (June-August), making it easier and more affordable than ever before for Americans to get to the island of Ireland. As an island, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated – they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism. Niall Gibbons continued: “As we are now into the high season, these results are encouraging. Tourism Ireland has a very strong programme of promotional activity in place across the globe, highlighting the island of Ireland to potential holidaymakers everywhere. We believe that – working closely with our industry partners in 2013 – we can deliver a +5% increase in visitor numbers. In particular, The Gathering Ireland 2013 and Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 present tremendous opportunities for us to shine a spotlight on the island of Ireland around the world.”
The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) states that, despite an increase of 8.1% in overseas visitors in the last quarter, many hotels in rural areas continue to suffer from struggling domestic demand. While welcoming the increase in overseas visitors, Michael Vaughan, president of the IHF, states that the sharp contraction in consumer spending so far in 2013 is putting renewed pressure on hotels outside the main urban areas.
“Irish tourism is very dependent on the domestic market with holidaymakers from the island of Ireland making up 70% of overall business in the hotels sector. This is even more pronounced in rural areas, where business from the domestic economy can account for up to 85% of bednights - - making the sector extremely sensitive to consumer demand at home.”
“The Government’s decision to reduce tourism VAT to 9% has provided a vital stimulus for hotels and guesthouses and acted as a key competitive advantage when marketing Ireland as a tourism destination abroad,” said Vaughan. “It’s now of the utmost importance that the Government provides greater certainty around the retention of the tourism VAT rate into 2014 to support struggling domestic demand, which is by far the largest source of revenue for many rural hotels.”
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