Record year for tourism but UK market remains difficult

Tourism Ireland targets the ‘culturally curious’, the US and new markets for growth

The Cliffs of Moher in  Co Clare,  one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions. Photograph: Getty Images

The Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare, one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions. Photograph: Getty Images


Visitor numbers to Ireland in 2017 are likely to set another record, following the release of figures from the CSO for the first 11 months of the year.

The figures show almost 9.25 million visits to the Republic up to the end of November 2017, representing a 3.7 per cent increase on the similar period in 2016.

However, visitor numbers from Britain continued to falter, with a decline of 5.2 per cent for the January to November period.

Overall, Tourism Ireland has said the total number of visitors to the island over the full year is likely to rise to 10.65 million and bring revenues of €5.78 billion. The all-Ireland tourism authority has set a new target of €6 billion in revenues for 2018.

It also intends to the tackle the decline in British visitors by targeting the “culturally curious” market in the UK which is less sensitive to the drop in the value of Sterling since the start of Brexit.

Tourism Ireland said it is also pursuing a policy of diversification with increased focus on long stay, high spending visitors from North America. The all-island tourism authority welcomed figures which showed tourism numbers from North America were facing their fifth successive year for record highs.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said the results from North America were “exceptional” with almost two million visitors so far, up 16.6 per cent on January to November last year. He also also welcomed growth in visitor numbers from Australia and developing markets which were up 13.1 per cent; and from mainland Europe up 5.5 per cent , “with important markets like Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Nordic region all recording strong growth.

“Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors,” he said.

Major networks

Tourism Ireland’s new TV advertisement – Welcome to Ireland – will air on US television from St Stephen’s Day and continue through New Year’s Eve.

The advertisement will run on three major networks – NBC, CBS and ABC – in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, all important gateway cities for Irish tourism. It will air around premium entertainment programmes with large audiences over the Christmas and New Year’s period – such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show, Blue Bloods and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

The CSO figures for the first 11 months of 2017 showed:

* At 9,249,700 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 3.7 per cent.

* Visits from mainland Europe grew by 5.5 per cent, to 3,267,500 visits.

* North America registered an increase of 16.6 per cent, or 1,982,000 visits.

* Visits from Great Britain were down by -5.2 per cent to 3,430,500 visits.

* Visits from the rest of the world mostly long-haul and developing markets grew by 13.1 per cent to 569,600 visits.

Looking to 2018 Mr Gibbons said improvements in access to Ireland “augur well for continued growth from the United States, with new Aer Lingus flights to Dublin from Seattle and Philadelphia. Our Jump into Ireland sales blitz next year will take in 15 cities across the US and Canada. We look forward to building on this year’s success in 2018 and beyond,” he said.