UK tourist numbers continue to decline after Brexit

Visitors from UK down 7.5% during height of tourist season as sterling falls

Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland: will travel to the UK next week to meet industry counterparts. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland: will travel to the UK next week to meet industry counterparts. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Ireland’s post-Brexit appeal as a destination for UK tourists continues to fade, with latest figures showing a further drop in numbers.

The figures have decreased steadily since last year’s Brexit referendum, fuelled by a sharp fall in the value of sterling.

New Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show no sign of the trend abating in what was once Ireland’s biggest foreign market. UK arrivals decreased by 7.5 per cent for the three months from June to August, the height of the tourist season, with 85,200 fewer individual trips than in the same period last year.

For the six-month period from January to August there were 190,400 fewer visits. However, in both cases, the 2017 figures were an improvement on 2015.

However, overall, the latest CSO report showed the total number of trips to Ireland increased by 1.7 per cent to more than 3.1 million over the three-month period to August.

Those arriving from mainland Europe increased by 2.4 per cent to more than 1.1 million, and by 13.3 per cent to 756,500 from North America. “Other” places of origin also rose 12.5 per cent.

Shift of focus

These increases could foreshadow a shift of focus from the traditional domination of UK visitors. In 2014, Tourism Ireland, the body with responsibility for marketing Ireland as a holiday destination, predicted that by 2019 North American tourists would overtake the British in terms of revenue spent. This has already happened.

For the island of Ireland (the CSO measures the Republic only), the ranking system of visitors in terms of revenue from January to June 2014 was the UK, mainland Europe, North America and Australia and Developing Markets (ADM). For the first half of 2017, the running order shifted to Europe, North America, the UK and ADM.

In the meantime, Irish tourism officials will travel to the UK next week to meet industry counterparts. Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said the meeting will “take the temperature of what the market is like”.

“We will get a sense of what British consumers are thinking and what the British travel trade is thinking,” he said. “The biggest watchword is what we said last year: competitiveness and value for money.”

It is now estimated that between the dip in sterling and the cost of Irish hotels, the price of visiting Ireland for UK tourists has gone up by about 20 per cent.

“That’s tricky,” Mr Gibbons said, “but it is something that we are not giving up on.”

While UK visitors are in decline, they are still expected to account for 40 per cent of volume in 2017 and 30 per cent of spending.