Visitor numbers drop by 900,000

 

Ireland saw nearly one million less overseas visitors to the country last year as the slump in tourism continues, latest travel data reveal.

The figures for December, published by the Central Statistics Office today, show a total of 6,927,500 overseas trips were made to Ireland last year, the lowest since 2005 and a drop of 911,500 (11.6 per cent) when compared to 2008.

The drop of 15.9 per cent in visitor numbers from Britain, the State's main tourism market, accounted for most of the decline, with trips to Ireland from the UK falling by 615,400.

Visitor numbers from other European countries fell by 228,000 and from North America by 24,200.

The figures show trips to Ireland by overseas residents for the month of December were down 6 per cent to 473,600 from a year earlier.

Visitors from Britain were down by 12.6 per cent to 232,600 for the month while trips to Ireland by residents of other European countries and North America remained relatively steady at 159,100 and 54,600 respectively over the same period.

Meanwhile, Irish residents made 10 per cent less overseas visits in 2009 when compared to the previous year - 7,049,300 trips compared to 7,877,400.

In December 2009 Irish residents made 417,300 overseas trips, 15 per cent fewer than 12 months earlier.

Commenting on the figures Niall Gibbons chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said last year “was one of the toughest years for tourism”.

He said Tourism Ireland aims to grow visitor numbers by 3 per cent this year through a range of campaigns particularly in the run-up to and during St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Gibbons said the discoverireland website received a record 13 million visits last year which he aims to convert into sales in 2010.

Fine Gael’s Olivia Mitchell said last year was “catastrophic” for Irish tourism and blamed Government policy as “a major cause of the collapse” in Irish tourism.

She said Minister for Tourism Martin Cullen should abolish departure tax and harness tourism infrastructure such as the new Conference Centre in Dublin as well as the Aviva Stadium, O2 arena and Grand Canal Theatre.

“Last year was a year long disaster and it is only by harnessing the opportunities available to us that the slide can be halted,” she added.