North American visitors on rise but British tourists still in decline
Overall trips to Ireland up by 4 per cent, CSO figures show
Visitors numbers to Ireland increased by over 56,000 - but British trips were down.
The Gathering may have caught the imagination of American tourists, but the number of British visitors to Ireland continues to decline, figures released by the Central Statistics Office reveal.
According to the CSO’s overseas travel bulletin for February to April, the overall number of trips to Ireland increased by 4 per cent to 1,457,400, an increase of 56,300 on the same period last year.
Trips by residents of North America jumped by 16.2 per cent to 207,300 while trips by European residents outside Britain increased by 8.8 per cent to 541,500. Visitor numbers from France in particular grew strongly, climbing 20 per cent from 89,300 last year to 107,100 in 2013.
But the British market remains a cause for concern, falling by 2 per cent to 638,000 compared to last year. Britain represents one of Ireland’s largest tourist markets, but its share has fallen by a million since 2007.
The number of visitors from areas other than Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand also declined, dropping 2.2 per cent to 638,600. Irish residents took 1,331,200 trips abroad during the period, a fall of 1.8 per cent on last year.
Tourism Ireland said the British market remains “challenging”, with slow economic growth and weak consumer confidence affecting travel. The organisation’s chief executive, Niall Gibbons, said a plan had been put in place to increase the number of British holidaymakers coming to Ireland by 20 per cent by 2016.
“We are implementing our GB Path to Growth plan, developed in conjunction with industry partners, to return this – our largest – market to sustained growth,” he said.
The overall figures indicated a positive start to 2013 ahead of the high summer season, he added. “I particularly welcome the increase in visitor numbers from North America, which suggests we could be on course to achieve our best year ever from that market,” he continued, adding Ireland hoped to welcome more than one million American visitors this year, spending about US$1 billion (€770 million).
Growth from continental countries and the Nordic region is up by 15.3 per cent. “We believe that mainland Europe also holds the key to tourism growth this year; it is very encouraging to see strong performances for the February to April period,” Mr Gibbons said.