Tourism figures worsen with 113,000 fewer visits this June


THE CONTINUING slump in the tourism sector shows no sign of easing with data for June showing a further sharp decline in visitor numbers.

The latest travel figures, published by the Central Statistics Office yesterday, showed overseas visits to Ireland fell by 113,300 (15.1 per cent) in June compared with the same month last year.

There were 636,600 visits from abroad in June compared with 749,900 visits in June 2008.

Trips to Ireland from Britain and mainland Europe, the State’s two main visitor markets, saw sharp declines.

Visitor numbers from Britain fell nearly 20 per cent (64,300) to 260,700 in June compared with the same month last year. Trips from Britain have now fallen by 291,700 in the first six months of the year.

Trips made from other countries in Europe fell 12 per cent (29,900) to 219,600. Trips from Europe have now fallen by 62,200 in the year to June.

The figures show the total number of overseas visits to Ireland has now dropped 10.7 per cent to 3,304,100 in the first six months of the year.

Trips abroad by Irish residents in June were 709,900, down nearly 7.6 per cent on the same period last year.

The figures showed overseas trips fell by 9.8 per cent to 3,439,300 in the first six months of the year.

Minister for Employment Mary Coughlan said yesterday the Government was considering a number of measures to support the tourism sector, which she acknowledged was under “particular pressure”.

Speaking at the launch of the Government’s Employment Subsidy Scheme, Ms Coughlan said she would be working with Minister for Tourism Martin Cullen to devise an appropriate plan for the sector.

She said the subsidy scheme may form one possible model.

Alex Connolly of Fáilte Ireland said many businesses in the sector had “already hit the bottom line” and the problem was compounded by the lack of credit available.

But he said the drop in outbound travel meant more people were holidaying at home, which may help Irish businesses.

Tourism Ireland said the industry continued to be “hit hard” by the global recession and by extreme volatility.

“These CSO figures reflect the impact on Ireland and the tough year that tourism businesses across the island are experiencing,” it said.

However, it said recent data from the World Tourism Organisation suggested that while Ireland was suffering a decline in its tourism overall, it was maintaining and, in some cases, growing its share of available tourism business compared to other destinations, like Great Britain, France and Germany.

Fine Gael’s tourism spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell said the relative weakness of sterling was certainly a contributing factor to the poor figures for June but she said the introduction of the departure tax in April was now “clearly influencing travel decisions for British visitors.”

Ms Mitchell called for the €10 tax to be abolished, saying “it is madness to tax what has always been our best market and experience shows that if we lose these visitors now there is a good chance they will never return”.

Ryanair also warned that unless the tax was scrapped, the fall in visitor numbers would worsen next winter.

Labour Senator from west Cork Michael McCarthy described the figures as “nothing short of calamitous” for areas that relied on the tourist trade.