Minister welcomes increase in tourist numbers as positive start to Gathering
The number of tourists visiting Ireland rose 4.4 per cent between November and January. A total of 1,248,300 visits to Ireland by overseas residents were recorded, an increase of 52,900 on the same time 12 months previously, Central Statistics Office data shows.
Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar welcomed the figures as a “positive start” to the Gathering year.
Trips by visitors from the US increased by 12.2 per cent to 159,200, while European visitors, excluding those from Britain, increased by 5.2 per cent to 425,600.
The number of people visiting from Britain increased only slightly in the period, up by 0.6 per cent to 584,100, while visitors from Australia, Africa, South America and Asia increased by 16.1 per cent to 79,400.
Trips by Irish people abroad increased by 1 per cent to 1,180,400 during the same period.
Welcoming the increased tourism numbers, Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar said he was “very pleased to see such a positive start to the Gathering, with the positive performance at the end of last year continuing into 2013.
“There was particularly strong growth from North America and other long-haul markets between November and January, and continued growth from mainland Europe,” he said.
The Minister added that the figures confirmed visitor numbers from Britain had stabilised and would provide a “solid foundation for renewed growth in this market”. The upcoming St Patrick’s Day festival would be an opportunity to make further tourism gains, he added.
Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said he was pleased with the figures, especially the increase in visitors from the US.
“This year, we believe that North America holds the key to tourism growth. 2012 was one of the strongest years ever for visitors from the US to Ireland, after 2007, and 2013 could be the best year ever when we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about $1 billion,” he said.
“Today’s figures also show very good growth in visitor numbers from Ireland’s long-haul markets. And indications for these markets for 2013 are also positive.
“Etihad has announced a 35 per cent increase in capacity on its service from Abu Dhabi to Dublin, which is in addition to the Emirates service from Dubai – both providing excellent connectivity for Ireland with the Middle East and longer-haul markets.”
He said overseas tourism had a “critical role” to play in contributing to Ireland’s economic recovery.
The Gathering, the Government-backed, year-long festival designed to encourage the Irish diaspora and anyone with an interest in Ireland to visit the country this year, aims to attract an additional 325,000 visitors to the country.
Instead of holding new events the Gathering will sponsor hundreds of pre-existing festivals and events throughout the year.
From an initial core budget of €5 million the Government hopes to attract an extra 325,000 visitors and generate €200 million in tourism revenue.