Varadkar hopeful despite fall in visitor numbers
MINISTER FOR Transport, Leo Varadkar, has said he is confident the number of tourists visiting Ireland will increase this year.
Figures released by the Central Statistics Office yesterday show visitor numbers fell by 0.2 per cent in the three months to the end of April, with arrivals from North America falling by more than 7 per cent.
The drop of 13,800 in North American visitors, to a total of 178,400, was partly offset by a 14.5 per cent year-on-year spike in the number of visitors from other areas (everywhere except Britain, Europe and North America) to 72,000.
The data shows that 1.4 million people visited Ireland in February, March and April, an overall decrease of 2,700 on the same period last year.
Visits from residents of Britain increased by 0.3 per cent to 653,100 in the three-month period, while the number of visitors from other European countries was unchanged from the corresponding three months in 2011, at 497,700.
The number of Irish residents leaving the State also fell in the quarter to just under 1.36 million, a 1.1 per cent decrease on the same period last year.
Despite the decline in visitor numbers in the period, Mr Varadkar said he was encouraged by growth in visits from Germany (+4.3 per cent), Italy (+12.5 per cent) and the Benelux countries (+5.7 per cent).
“The continuing positive performance from other countries outside Europe and North America shows that the Government’s plan to attract tourists from new and developing markets, with initiatives like the visa waiver programme, is proving effective in these areas,” he said.
“I remain confident about our prospects for 2012. Despite continuing economic uncertainty in many markets, there are plenty of reasons to expect a strong tourism performance this year.”
However, Mr Varadkar warned against complacency and said those working in the sector must “keep fighting for business”.