Visitor trips to Ireland hit record 10.6m
British residents account for a third of total despite Brexit uncertainty, CSO figures show
Trips by residents from Europe other than Britain rose by 9.5 per cent to 3.8 million last year, while trips made by US and Canadian residents jumped by 13.4 per cent to 2.4 million.
Overseas residents made a record 10.6 million trips to Ireland last year, with Britain accounting for a third of the total despite the uncertainty of Brexit.
The latest Central Statistics Office data shows there were 10.6 million trips to Ireland between January and December 2018, an increase of 6.9 per cent on the previous year.
British residents accounted for just under 3.8 million trips. That was marginally up (0.8 per cent) on 2017 but still below the 2016 peak.
Trips by residents from Europe other than Britain rose by 9.5 per cent to 3.8 million while trips made by US and Canadian residents jumped by 13.4 per cent to 2.4 million. Trips to Ireland from other areas, meanwhile, rose 6.7 per cent to 660,700.
At the same time the CSO said more than 8.2 million Irish residents had made overseas trips in 2018, up 4.2 per cent year on year, which was also the highest figure on record.
“Last year we saw another year of growth for Irish tourism which further underlined the value of the sector to the economy,” Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said.
“I am very encouraged that the growth we saw last year came from a number of markets. North America performed well as did Europe, with key markets such as Germany and Italy growing strongly,” he said.
“In addition, long-haul and developing markets also delivered good returns. Whilst the British market was somewhat flat, this is not surprising given the uncertainty attaching to Brexit,” Mr Ross said.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said the figures show Ireland welcomes 10 per cent of all American visitors to Europe – “particularly noteworthy given the intense competition from other destinations”.
“We have also seen record numbers arriving here from Australia and developing markets (+6.7 per cent); and from mainland Europe (+9.5 per cent), with important markets like Germany and Italy recording really good growth,” he said.
“Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors,” he said.
The main lobbying group for tourism has warned that the Government’s decision to reverse the preferential 9 per cent VAT rate formerly enjoyed by the sector risked undermining its success.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, the industry’s umbrella group, warned that “sustaining success in the Irish tourism sector in 2019 will be a challenge” due to the risks from Brexit, VAT rate hikes and higher costs.
The Government did away with the special 9 per cent VAT rate for most of the sector in the last budget, raising it 13.5 per cent.