Minister satisfied despite 1.1% fall in visitor numbers


THE NUMBER of visitors arriving in the Republic fell by 1.1 per cent on last year in the three months to May, with a sharp fall in trips from Britain offsetting growth in the European and North American tourism markets.

A total of 1.64 million trips were made to the Republic between March and May, which the Central Statistics Office said was 18,000 fewer than in the same period last year.

A total of 2.34 million visitors arrived up to the end of May this year, some 17,500 fewer than in the first five months of 2011.

Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar said he was satisfied that visitor numbers were holding up in spite of “the economic uncertainty in the global market”.

“Last year we saw growth in overseas visits to Ireland for the first time since 2007,” he said. “While the figures have been on a par this year, I remain confident that we will see growth in the months ahead.”

The number of visits from Britain, Ireland’s largest tourist market, fell by 5.7 per cent between March and May from 729,200 to 687,800.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said the British market was being affected by weakened consumer confidence and a move towards “staycations”.

“Travel by Britons to all destinations in western Europe is down 3 per cent for the first four months of the year,” he said.

The figures show a 1 per cent increase in the number of North Americans visiting the State to 250,800, a market that Tourism Ireland said had made a “weak start to the year”.

Trips from the long-haul rest- of-the-world markets were up by 12.3 per cent to 84,300, with Mr Gibbons attributing the spike to greater airline capacity and the Government’s visa waiver programme.

Visits from European countries (excluding Britain) increased by 1.9 per cent to 616,800 in the three months to May.

Mr Gibbons said he was encouraged by visitor numbers from Germany (up 10 per cent to 115,700), Italy (up 9 per cent to 62,600), and the Nordic region (up 9.5 per cent to 53,200) and that he expected the growth to continue into the summer months.

The number of overseas trips made by Irish residents in the first five months of the year fell by 1.8 per cent, when compared with the same period in 2011, to 2.29 million.