Overseas travellers rising but still a fraction of pre-pandemic levels

For every overseas traveller last month, there were 20 in May 2019, CSO figures show

The numbers of passenger arrivals and departures at Irish ports and airports were up significantly in May compared to the same month last year, but remain a fraction of those observed pre-pandemic.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show there were 85,400 overseas passenger arrivals and 97,000 overseas passenger departures during the month.

These compare with 69,400 arrivals and 73,000 departures in April, increases of 23 per cent and 32.9 per cent respectively.

Overseas travel in May increased nearly threefold compared to May 2020, when there were 28,300 arrivals and 36,300 departures.


However, for every overseas traveller in May of this year, there were 20 in pre-pandemic May 2019, when there were 1,818,900 arrivals and 1,851,600 departures.

Irish Tourism Industry Confederation chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said it was “absolutely essential” that the numbers pick up in the coming months.

“International tourism is the lifeblood of Irish tourism industry,” he said. “We welcome the adoption of the digital Covid cert from July 19th, and we hope to see an increase in numbers after that date because the Irish tourism industry desperately needs it.

“The domestic tourism market isn’t big enough or strong enough or robust enough to sustain the 20,000 businesses we have in the sector.

“We will be watching the July and August figures closely because that is when the digital Covid cert will be in place. We hope to see an increase then. Tourism is the largest indigenous employer and it has been devastated by Covid.

“One in five tourism businesses are not sure if they will open again, which shows you the impact. The big concern is that we have an industry, and one that is fighting fit, when the recovery comes.”

Mr O’Mara Walsh said the Government’s decision to postpone the reopening of indoor dining on Tuesday was a further blow to the sector.

“News today that about the ongoing closure of indoor hospitality is a blow to Irish tourism and undermines the digital Covid cert, because international visitors here expect to be able to go to the pub and to be to be able to go to a restaurant, and that’s now in doubt,” he said.


Of the 85,400 persons arriving in Ireland in May, 85.7 per cent (73,200) arrived by air and 14.3 per cent (12,200) arrived by sea.

Of the 97,000 persons departing, 84.9 per cent (82,400) did so by air and 15.1 per cent (14,600) by sea.

The continental route accounted for most passenger traffic, with 53.1 per cent of arrivals (45,400) and 54.5 per cent of departures (52,900). The cross-channel route was next busiest, with 38 per cent of arrivals (32,400) and 37.1 per cent of departures (36,000).

The transatlantic route saw just 5.7 per cent of arrivals (4,900) and 4.7 per cent of departures (4,500).

However, in terms of specific routing countries for travelling directly to Ireland, Britain proved most important, accounting for 32,400 arrivals and 36,000 departures.

The Netherlands was the second most important routing country, with 8,200 arrivals and 9,100 departures. Poland was third most important with 6,500 arrivals and 7,800 departures.

For the year-to-date (January-May), 379,100 persons arrived in Ireland from overseas and 408,400 persons departed.

This compares with 3,129,600 arrivals and 3,099,300 departures in the same period in 2020, and 7,398,200 arrivals and 7,427,300 departures in the same period in 2019.

“This illustrates the ongoing dramatic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on international travel to and from Ireland,” said CSO statistician Gregg Patrick.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter