Sharp fall in British visitors over summer


DESPITE A €500,000 viral tourism campaign urging Londoners to escape the Olympic “madness” for tranquil Ireland, there was a sharp fall in British visitors to Ireland over the summer.

The State’s biggest tourism market declined almost 9 per cent for the July to September period compared with 2011, Central Statistics Office figures released yesterday show.

There were some 80,000 fewer trips by British residents to Ireland, down to 830,000 in the period which covers the London games. This was the lowest third-quarter for British visitors in almost two decades, and a third less than the 2007 peak of 1.2 million British visitors in the period.

The British market was “still proving difficult” with a slow economic recovery and weak consumer confidence having a “significant impact on outbound travel”, Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said yesterday.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the reasons for the drop in British visitors were “complex”. They included the economy, poor summer weather and “the fact that fewer Britons are holidaying abroad now than in 2001”.

There has been a 2 per cent drop in holidays abroad by UK residents this year, but business visits abroad and visits abroad to friends or relatives have not fallen, the UK Office for National Statistics said this month. In the June to August 2012 period the number of visits abroad by UK residents was 2 per cent higher than in the same period in 2011.

“Although British visitors tend to spend a shorter time in Ireland, it remains our most important market,” Mr Varadkar said. A new strategy to restore UK visitors by the State’s Tourism Recovery Taskforce was “very significant”.

The GB Path to Growth report was launched on Tuesday. Mr Varadkar said it looked at how to increase visitors from Britain and would be reflected in 2013 plans of agencies and businesses.

Overall the CSO report showed a 2.6 per cent decrease in visitors to the State (55,000 visitors) in the third quarter. The British decline was balanced by a rise in visitors from other European countries (by 2.6 per cent) and from North America (up 3.6 per cent) in the July to September period compared with 2011.

Italian and German visitors provided the greatest increase from European countries at 12.5 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively.

Visitors from North America were up by a fifth for the month of September, with a significant boost from the Notre Dame v Navy American football game in Dublin on September 1st.

In what was one of the dullest, wettest and coolest summers in years, Irish people took 40,000 more trips abroad, an increase of 2.1 per cent compared with July to September 2011.