Visitors to Ireland from overseas up 8.2% at end of 2013

Trips to Ireland from North America increased by 14.8% to 182,800

There were 102,500 more visitors to Ireland from abroad in the fourth quarter of last year compared to the same period in 2012, a rise of 8.2 per cent.

Visits by North American residents increased by 14.8 per cent to 182,800 between November and January, figures from the Central Statistics Office show, while UK visitors increased by 8.5 per cent to 633,900.

The total number of visitors from abroad exceeded 1.35 million in the three month period, the figures show. Trips by European residents from outside the UK were up 1.6 per cent to 432,200, while visits from countries outside the UK and US were up 28.5 per cent to 102,000.

The number of overseas trips made by Irish residents during the period also increased by 1.4 per cent, to 1.197 million.

The total number of trips taken by Irish residents, including trips within Ireland, rose 4.9 per cent to 2.548 million.

Welcoming the figures, Minister for Transport and Tourism Leo Varadkar said the impact of the Gathering last year was still being felt.

“I’m very pleased to see 2014 get off to such a strong start,” he said, adding that last year had been “the best for tourism since 2008” with visitor numbers up 7.2 per cent in total.

"There was particularly strong growth from North America, Britain and long-haul markets while Mainland Europe also experienced growth. The cut in the air travel tax to zero comes into effect in April and more than 24 new routes will start this year. This increased capacity should help us to grow visitor numbers further."

Mr Varadkar said the industry had ambitious targets to grow visitor numbers by another 4 per cent in 2014, and revenue by 8 per cent.

The start of the Giro D’Italia in Ireland and the Croke Park Classic American Football game should draw additional visitors to Ireland this year, he added.

Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring said a lot of the festivals and events organised by community groups for the Gathering last year are to be repeated again in 2014, which will continue to boost tourism numbers.

Fáilte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn said the rising number of overseas visitors was good news for job creation, especially in rural communities around the country where tourism is central to the local economy.

“This year, we are revamping tourism in Dublin, rolling out the Wild Atlantic Way in the west, developing attractions in the east and south and building on the legacy of the Gathering,” he said.

“All of this will help us continue the very positive momentum we’ve experienced in the last year or so.”

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine