The decline in the number of overseas visitors coming here slowed in June, with tourist data for the month showing the smallest year on year decrease so far in 2010.
A total of 600,300 people visited Ireland in June, some 5.7 per cent fewer than in the same month last year. The latest figures suggest a stabilising in the troubled sector, which saw a year on year fall off of almost 25 per cent during May.
Data from the Central Statistics Office show the number of people travelling here from Britain, Ireland’s largest tourist market, was 3 per cent lower than in the same period last year at 252,900.
This was in contrast to a fall of almost 20 per cent recorded at the same time last year and a 30 per cent decline in travel from Britain in May of this year.
The number of trips from North America (123,600) and other areas (35,800) increased by 1.4 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively
However, the number of trips to Ireland from Europe, excluding Britain, fell by 14.4 per cent to 187,900.
Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin said the numbers suggested "things are turning around for the tourism sector".
She said tourism agencies were fighting "for every bit of business" in key markets and trying to “get the message out there that there has never been a better time to visit Ireland both in terms of the value for money on the ground and the quality of our tourism offering".
Ms Hanafin said that feedback from the industry suggested it was experiencing a better than expected domestic tourism season, which was offsetting some of the drop in overseas visitor numbers.
Irish residents took 657,200 overseas trips in June, 7.4 per cent fewer than in the same period last year.
Tourism Ireland said this had been "an extremely difficult year" and that the CSO figures reflected this.
“However, it is important to remember that with the later-than-ever booking trend means that there is still business out there to be won - over 50 per cent of holidaymakers arrive here between July and December – and Tourism Ireland and industry partners are out in all our major markets right now fighting for business," chief executive Niall Gibbons said.
Fine Gael spokesman on tourism Jimmy Deenihan said the figures were “truly shocking” and were proof that the Irish tourism sector was “in crisis”.
“If properly managed and marketed, tourism represents one the chief means by which Ireland can generate employment and business but the Minister has singularly failed to energise the sector,” he said.
Labour Party spokeswoman on tourism Mary Upton said there had been “persistent effort by the tourism sector, frequently with little or no Government support, to stem the haemorrhage of foreign tourists”.
“There is, however, much more to be done in terms of recovering from the steep decline in tourism activity and its contribution to aiding Ireland’s overall economic recovery.”