Almost 1.7m tourists visit Republic in opening months of 2023

Demand from continent and North America ‘at forefront of recovery’ while numbers from Britain lag

Almost 1.7 million tourists arrived in the Republic in the first three months of the year as recovery began to grow momentum, figures from one industry body show.

Government Covid curbs shut down tourism, one of the Republic’s biggest home-grown industries, for two years in 2020 and 2021.

According to the latest figures from the Irish Tourism Industry Council (ITIC), its recovery showed signs of growing momentum between January and March as it approached the critical part of this year.

Estimates for the first three months of 2023 “suggest that close to 1.7 million overseas visitors” arrived here during that time, 16 per cent below 2019, which was a record year, the council notes.

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“Indicators suggest that demand from mainland Europe and North America is to the forefront of tourism recovery,” it says, adding that this was also the case in the second part of last year.

However, demand from Britain, Ireland’s biggest tourism market, remained weak, according to the ITIC.

St Patrick’s weekend was the busiest in four years, aided by the Ireland-England Six Nations Rugby championship in Lansdowne Road, Dublin, which saw the home side seal a Grand Slam.

Before Government pandemic restrictions disrupted the industry, about a fifth of tourists that visited in any one year arrived in the first quarter.

Hotels were busier and more expensive than during the first quarter of 2019, figures in the ITIC’s Industry Postcard for April show.

On average, Irish hotels sold 63 per cent of their rooms over the three-month period, up from 44.5 per cent last year and marginally ahead of 2019.

Guests paid an average of €138.27 per room, increasing to €144.40 in Dublin, where rates were 21 per cent higher than during the first quarter of 2019.

The council blamed inflation and “soaring business costs” for the hike in room rates in the capital.

About four million passengers arrived in Irish airports over the first quarter, edging them ahead of 2019 and putting them among a few that have surpassed pre-pandemic levels of business so far this year.

Extra capacity and new routes helped boost numbers. European routes led the recovery but transatlantic traffic closed in on 2019 levels.

Dublin was one of a handful of capital city airports where passenger numbers exceeded pre-pandemic levels in the early months of the year.

Recent figures from both Airports Council International – Europe and air navigation body, Eurocontrol, show numbers across the region still lagging 2019.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas