Number of British visitors to Ireland down by 6% this year

Total amount of trips to State increased by 3.1% in first seven months of 2017, CSO says

Ireland saw an increase in tourism from North America during the early summer months this year. Photograph: Getty

Ireland saw an increase in tourism from North America during the early summer months this year. Photograph: Getty

 

Tourism authorities have expressed concern about falling numbers of visitors from Britain despite an overall increase in trips to Ireland so far this year.

Overall visitor numbers from Ireland’s nearest and largest tourism market fell by almost 140,000 to 2.08 million in the first seven months of the year, a fall of more than 6 per cent when compared with the same period last year.

The drop follows Britain’s decision to leave the EU last year and the weakening of the pound sterling against the euro.

Despite the fall off in the British market, the total number of trips to the State increased by 3.1 per cent with the rise largely driven by visits from North America, the latest Central Statistics Office tourism figures show.

The numbers visiting during May, June and July increased by more than 4 per cent year-on-year to some 2.9 million. Trips from Britain fell by 5.4 per cent to 978,700 between May and July.

Minister for Tourism Shane Ross welcomed the overall growth in visits but admitted the faltering performance of the UK market was a cause for concern.

His sentiments were echoed by the Irish Hotels Federation, which urged the Government to “take the necessary steps to protect Irish tourism”.

“The Irish Hotels Federation . . . remains concerned by the continued fall in numbers from the UK,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our industry faces significant risks associated with Brexit due to the continued economic uncertainty and the marked fall in the sterling exchange rate, with regional tourism likely to be hit hardest.”

Fáilte Ireland chief executive Paul Kelly said the “worrying” UK decline had been compensated by a “stellar” performance from North America, while Irish Tourist Industry Confederation chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh added that Brexit has become “a real problem for Irish tourism”.

Growing markets

The latest statistics show that 124,000 more trips were made to Ireland in the May to July period than in the same three months last year.

The number of trips from North America grew by almost 80,000 to 713,600 over the three-month period, while numbers for other areas including Africa, the Antipodes, Asia and the Americas showed a year-on-year increase of 17 per cent.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said “the double-digit growth we’ve seen in the earlier months of 2017 has now slowed”.

Tourism authorities have targeted lucrative markets such as the US and Asia amid the ongoing uncertainty in the UK as part of a drive to attract 10 million visitors by 2025. There were almost 9 million visitors to Ireland last year.

Some 5.6 million trips have been made to Ireland up to July this year, an increase of 3.1 per cent on the corresponding period in 2016.

Meanwhile, Irish residents made 2.37 million trips overseas between May and July this year, up 5 per cent on last year.