Number of visitors from Britain drops following Brexit warnings
Fall of 22% in British visits in 2017 could lead to 850,000 fewer tourists this year
Number of overseas trips to Ireland continued to rise with more than 1.7 million visitors during the winter months. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The number of visits from the UK dropped by more than five per cent during the winter months confirming the dampening effect of Brexit on British visitors to Ireland.
The release of the latest tourism data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which coincides with the triggering of article 50 by prime minister Theresa May, shows that fears of a drop in visitor numbers from across the Irish Sea in the wake of last year’s vote may not have been unfounded.
Between December and February, the volume of British visitors decreased by 5.9 per cent, while in February alone visitor numbers dropped by 22 per cent. While these decreases have been offset by increases in US and European visitor numbers, British visitors account for 40 per cent of the total volume of overseas tourists visiting Ireland, so it heightens fears of the tourism industry over Brexit.
The number of trips by residents of the UK dropped by 49,200 to 789,200 between December and February. Some 838,400 trips from the UK were made during the same period last year.
The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) warned that the impact of Brexit was already damaging Irish tourism and added that if the decline in visitors continues at a similar pace it would mean 850,000 less arrivals from Britain and would impact up to 10,000 jobs.
“Brexit represents the biggest challenge to Irish tourism since the global recession,” said ITIC chairman Paul Gallagher. “The Government has been asleep at the wheel, despite the Irish tourism industry’s urgings, and corrective action is needed now.”
The ITIC is now calling on the Government to reverse recent cuts and provide an immediate €12 million boost to tourism budgets.
Chief executive of Fáilte Ireland Paul Kelly underlined that the drop in British visitors should act as a reminder not to be complacent, adding that the triggering of Article 50 “reminds us the tourism sector trades in a changeable environment”.
Our grey skies and rainy weather failed to put off visitors from further afield as the number of overseas trips to Ireland continued to rise with more than 1.7 million visitors during the winter months.
Some 1,740,900 trips to Ireland were recorded between December 2016 and February 2017 with growing numbers visiting from North America, Britain and other European nations. The CSO data marks an overall increase of 51,200 visits when compared to the same period 12 months earlier.
The 275,400 visits made by North Americans from December to February marked nearly a 40 per cent rise on the same time period in 2015/16, while visitors from other European countries and “other areas” also rose.
There were 92,100 visits from France, 88,900 visits from Germany and 71,700 from Spain, with significant numbers of visitors also coming from Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
The number of visitors from Australia, New Zealand and other Oceania countries rose from 36,000 between December and February last year to 42,800 this year.
While tourists overlooked our colder climate, many Irish people opted to flee the rain and sleet with 1,530,900 Irish residents travelling abroad between December and February. This marks a 12 per cent rise on the number of trips made by people from Ireland during the same period last year.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross welcomed the increase in trips from overseas but described the drop in visitors from the UK as “disappointing”.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan encouraged the State’s tourism bodies to work together in the face of challenges such as Brexit to ensure “even more visitors sample the quality, variety and value on offer here”.
Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons welcomed the continued rise in visitors from North America, saying the increased number of airline seats and expanded airline services across the Atlantic had played an important role in the growth. He added that he hoped the new Qatar Airways service from Doha to Dublin, which commences in June, would open up travel options for visitors from the Middle East.