Travel recovery continued apace in February

More than 1.2m people arrived in Ireland from abroad last month, up 1.1% on pre-Covid times

More than 1.2 million people arrived in Irish airports and ferry ports in February, an increase of 1.1 per cent from pre-Covid February 2020, as the post-pandemic recovery in international travel continued apace.

The latest air and sea travel figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) also show the dramatic increase in passenger arrivals compared to 2022 when international travel had yet to fully rebound after two years of disruption and public health restrictions. Last month’s total was more than 56 per cent higher than the total for February last year, when just 787,300 passengers arrived on Irish shores.

Having remained below pre-Covid levels for all of 2022, the number of passenger arrivals has shot above those levels in the early months of 2023, in line with global trends.

About 1,184,200 passengers arrived by air and 44,700 by sea in February 2023, the CSO said, both well ahead of February 2020 before Covid-19 spread from China into other countries.


Just over 494,000 passengers came or returned to Ireland on cross-channel routes last month, while 603,400 came or returned to Ireland from continental Europe. About 75,300 travelled on transatlantic routes. Some 56,000 came from routes that began in Asia or Africa.

Britain “remained the most important departure country for overseas travel to Ireland”, said CSO tourism and travel statistician Gregg Patrick, “with 493,100 passengers arriving on air and sea routes from Great Britain in February 2023, compared with just 318,500 in February 2022″.

Overall, he said: “The recovery is seen in both modes of travel (air and sea), although the recovery in air travel is most pronounced, increasing by 56.9 per cent in February 2023 compared with February 2022. The recovery is also spread across all major routes, with transatlantic traffic up most (97.5 per cent) in relative terms, increasing from 38,100 in February 2022 to 75,300 in February 2023. Among the continental routes Spanish routes remain the busiest, with 134,100 passengers arriving on these routes in February 2023, a 42.5 per cent increase compared with February 2022.”

Boosted by the reopening of China, global forecasters are projecting international travel to recover fully from the pandemic my midyear.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Kenny Jacobs, DAA chief executive, predicted that Ireland’s biggest airport would handle “in and around or just below” the record 32 million passengers that passed through there in 2019, the year before Covid-19 disrupted air travel.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times