The number of overseas visitors to Ireland grew by 3% in January-May this year despite a 6% fall-off in arrivals from Britain.
Strong growth from North America was the main driver of the growth.
Tourism Ireland ceo Niall Gibbons said:
“As anticipated, the currency challenge for Irish tourism is very real and the drop in British visitor numbers (-6.8%) for the January to May 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. We continue to monitor developments around Brexit closely, to better understand and plan for its implications.”
Commenting on overall figures Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said:
“I am pleased to see growth of more than +3% for the five-month period January-May, coming on the back of a record performance in 2016 and years of solid growth in overseas tourism. It is encouragin
g that this was the best ever month of May for Irish tourism. Particularly welcome is the continued strong performance from North America, with an increase of +23.6%. Tourism Ireland has prioritised North America for 2017, as a market which offers a strong return on investment, in terms of holiday visitors and expenditure. A number of factors are working in our favour, including more airline seats than ever before, from more gateways across the US and Canada.
“Visitor numbers from Australia and Developing Markets for the first five months of 2017 are also really strong, up +21.7%. And arrivals from Mainland Europe grew by 4% – with important markets like France, Germany, Spain and Italy continuing to perform well.
Donall O’Keeffe, Secretary of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) and Chief Executive of the LVA, calleed for a 'Brexit Budget' to mitigate the risk of a hard Brexit:
‘We welcome today’s figures that show overall visitor numbers to Ireland have increased in the period January-May of 2017, compared to the same period last year. The figures showing visitor numbers from the UK, our largest tourism market, are a concern given the potential impact of Brexit.
‘According to the CSO, 40% of our tourists come from Britain. Today’s figures report a significant reduction in the number of British visitors to Ireland in the period January-May of 2017—down 105,100 or 6.8% on 2016 figures.
‘The hospitality sector, and particularly the Irish pub, play a central role in attracting tourists to Ireland. Pub culture consistently ranks as one of the top reasons why people visit Ireland. Tourism is worth over €6.5 billion* to the Irish market and is key to the continued growth and development of our economy.
‘When faced with challenges like Brexit, we need to ensure we take action to protect, encourage and develop our tourism product and particularly those industries that drive it. We believe that the government needs to produce a Brexit Budget and pull together a coordinated Brexit strategy that protects jobs, encourages economic activity and mitigates the risk of a hard Brexit.
‘We believe that government must look to reduce the excise tax on alcohol that are among the highest in the EU. This would assist the drinks and hospitality industry to continue to innovate its offering and remain an attractive destination for our largest tourism market and guard against other overseas visitors choosing Britain over Ireland.’