North American tourists spending more than British in Ireland

Tourism Ireland turning to ‘Star Wars’ again as it looks to further boost visitor numbers

Spending by North American tourists in Ireland is expected to surpass that of visitors from Britain this year, according to Tourism Ireland.

The agency, which published its mid-year review on Wednesday, reported a “stronger than expected” performance for the first six months of 2017 with the total number of overseas visitors to Ireland rising 4.2 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Tourism Ireland said Ireland recorded its best-ever first-half performance in terms of visitor numbers from mainland Europe, the country’s biggest region in terms of spend. Visitors were up nearly 6 per cent compared with the first six months of 2016.

In addition, visitor numbers from North America climbed 21.6 per cent in the first half with Australia and developing markets up 20.6 per cent.


However, visitor numbers from Britain, Ireland’s biggest market in volume terms, fell 6.4 per cent, largely due to the decline in value of sterling since the Brexit vote in June 2016.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said research undertaken on behalf of the agency showed that British consumers intend to take fewer holidays, spend less time away and rein in the spending over the coming years.

‘Very challenging’

“We’ve seen visitor numbers from Britain fall by over 6 per cent so far this year and we certainly see the latter part of 2017 and 2018 being very challenging, particularly with the change in currency, which has made value for money more important,” said Mr Gibbons.

“We have to be very conscious of the fact that the British consumer is looking for real value and they are very discerning in terms of the destinations they are choosing,” he added.

Mr Gibbons that a number of longer-term issues need to be addressed that could impact on visitor numbers in a post-Brexit world, including the Common Travel Area and the joint British and Irish visa scheme, which operates in India and China.

He said that while visitor numbers to the Republic from Britain were lower, there were indications of an increase in visits to the North.

Tourism Ireland is undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world in the second half of 2017 to further boost visitor numbers to Ireland from other markets.

These include an advertising campaign to coincide with the release of the latest Star Wars film, parts of which were filmed here. It will also continue to promote the country's association with Game of Thrones, the new series of which started few weeks ago.

In addition, the agency will partake in a trade mission to the Middle East and India and run a “jump into Ireland” travel trade and media blitz in the United States.

Mr Gibbons also said the agency was placing a greater focus on the “culturally curious”, a segment of travellers who are seen to be keen on discovering and exploring hidden experiences.

Minister for Tourism Shane Ross, meanwhile, described the introduction of the 9 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality sector as a great success and said he was keen to retain it and also to keep the air travel tax at zero.

Mr Ross said Ireland’s reputation was damaged globally during the Celtic Tiger days due to price gouging. He said the cost of hotel rooms in Dublin currently was causing concern and he hoped it wouldn’t once again lead to reputational damage.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist