CSO data shows domestic tourism recovery while foreign and business travel lagged due to Omicron

Domestic holidaymakers spent €292 million in the first three months of 2022

Fresh data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that domestic tourism continued to recover strongly during the first quarter from the damage caused by the pandemic, although the recovery of international travel lagged as Ireland dealt with the Omicron wave during the first three months of 2022. Business trips were also still sharply down on pre-pandemic levels, as staff continued to work remotely.

Irish residents took about 2.3 million domestic overnight trips in the first quarter of the year, up 7 per cent compared to 2020, the last comparable quarter that was mostly unaffected by the pandemic. Their expenditure on these trips rose at a far faster rate, however, illustrating the price increases facing domestic tourists in recent times.

Total spend on domestic trips in Q1 2022 was €471 million, up 30 per cent on 2020. Domestic holidaymakers accounted for €292 million of this, with people visiting friends and relatives spending €83 million and the rest — €96 million — on other reasons including business travel.

The number of business travellers in Q1 dropped 43 per cent compared to 2020, as working from home arrangements and a preference for virtual meetings during Omicron impacted on the figures.

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The numbers, which compare the performance of domestic and international travel in Q1 2022 with the same period in 2021, are heavily skewed by the fact that Ireland was in a full antivirus lockdown throughout the first three months of last year. There were eight times as many domestic trips taken in Q1 this year compared to last year, and 10 times as many foreign trips.

The CSO has also released Q1 data for overseas travel by Irish residents. These show that activity levels were still well down on 2020, as Omicron fears caused another wobble in the industry. The number of outbound trips was down 31 per cent compared to 2020, while expenditure fell 46 per cent.

“The number of outbound overnight trips to European countries in Q1 2022 was down 23 per cent, while trips to all other outbound destinations were 69 per cent lower than in the pre-pandemic period in Q1 2020,” said Brendan Curtin, a statistician in the CSO’s tourism and travel division.

The travel trade has reported a strong recovery in the months since the first quarter, with airport passenger traffic well above 90 per cent of pre-pandemic rates.

Meanwhile, the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) said the level of bookings of foreign holidays made with its members by Irish tourists in the second quarter, from April to June, was “comparable” to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. A survey by the ITAA suggests that about 40 per cent of travel agents who responded recorded an increase in Q2 bookings compared to 2019. Three quarters of these recorded increases in bookings of more than 10 per cent. About 36 per cent of travel agents recorded a decrease, with the rest reporting that the level of bookings had stayed the same. Pat Dawson, the ITAA’s chief executive, said he expects the level of bookings to be higher in the third quarter. "

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column