Tourism Ireland credits success to air capacity and social media

Shane Ross concerned about escalating costs of €320m second Dublin Airport runway

Tourism in Ireland is booming with airlines providing more then 500,000 seats a week on to the island, according to figures for the first six months of the year.

Increases in numbers of visitors have been recorded in all key markets, with a 52 per cent rise in the numbers coming from Britain over the last six years. Year on year, the figures for Britain are up 16 per cent this year – the highest increase to date, with numbers from North America up 15 per cent and a 28 per cent increase in the numbers of visitors from the Benelux countries – Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

All-Ireland marketing body Tourism Ireland said the only clouds on the horizon were the potential fallout from Britain's exit of the EU, and a return to high prices which damaged the industry before 2011.

Chief executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said air access to the island played a big part in the growth increase. He said the summer season offered American holiday makers in particular some 48,000 seats into Ireland every week, from 16 airports in North America.


Other key issues in the success of the industry were marketing through digital social media. Mr Gibbons said Tourism Ireland's Facebook presence alone had 3.6 million followers, each of whom had an average of 200 friends, giving a digital reach of some 700 million people.

Brexit fears

Welcoming the figures, Minister for Transport Shane Ross said one of the ways to counter fears of Brexit was the move to secure the Rugby World Cup for Ireland in 2023.

He said there were just four competitors going from applicant stage to candidate stage and “we are putting a superb bid” to be one of those.

He also said the Government would underwrite the tournament fee of about €120 million because of the “phenomenal” potential of the games for tourism.

However Mr Ross added that the cost increase of some €70 million associated with the development of a new runway at Dublin airport was “a cause of concern”.

The Minister said “the original cost” of the runway was €250 million “ and it appeared it has gone up by about €70 million” to €320 million. He had met the airport authority but was “not yet satisfied” that the cost increase was justified.

“I think we need to be absolutely certain that it is needed before we go ahead with it. It is a pretty rapid [price] rise and this is a huge development which has to be examined very, very carefully.”

2013 prices

In response the Dublin Airport Authority, the DAA, said the estimated €250 million runway costs were outlined in 2014 by the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), which regulates Dublin Airport, and were based on 2013 construction prices.

“Earlier this year, DAA estimated that the overall runway project could cost about €320 million,” a spokesman said.

“The reasons for the change are a combination of construction price inflation and scope changes,” he added.

“A number of elements, such as a new satellite fire station and an engine testing area, were not included in the original costing of the project, but are required to meet planning conditions, safety requirements and to maximise the efficiency of the new runway.”

He said that “what is planned from DAA’s perspective is a low-cost, highly functional runway, which will cater for all users for decades to come”.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist