The Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Mr Leo Varadkar TD has welcomed strong growth in the number of holidaymakers and business people who travelled to Ireland last year, as revealed by new CSO figures published recently.
While the overall number of visits to Ireland held steady last year, the number of core tourism visits grew very strongly, with holiday trips up 3.8 per cent and business trips up by 7 per cent in 2012. By comparison, visits to friends and relatives in Ireland were down by 7.9 per cent.
“These figures confirm that the recovery in Irish tourism, which began in 2011, was maintained in 2012 with overseas holidaymakers to Ireland continuing to grow and business trips performing particularly well,” Minister Varadkar said.
Spending by visitors to Ireland also increased by 4.5 per cent last year to 3.68 billion euro, with particularly strong growth in expenditure by holiday visitors from North America, where spending was up 10 per cent to 519 million euro, and from other long-haul areas, which were up 11 per cent to 142 million euro.
“We are continuing to market strongly to potential holidaymakers from these areas, given that they tend to stay longer and spend more than visitors from closer to home. The Government has worked hard to build on this sector with measures like the Visa Waiver Programme and by attracting new air routes into Ireland, particularly from the US. I am confident that we can encourage further growth from these longer-haul markets in this Gathering year. If the current trend continues, there is every chance that 2013 will be a great year for visits from North America,” Minister Varadkar said.
Although overall bed-nights fell by 4.7 per cent to 47,942,000 individual nights spent in any type of accommodation in Ireland, the hotel sector itself saw a boost in bed-nights, while fewer visitors opted to stay with friends or relatives.
The number of bed-nights also increased for all types of serviced accommodation (guest houses, B&Bs and hotels) for visitors from North America and other long-haul markets.
“I’m very pleased to see that hotels are clearly continuing to offer good value, supported by the Government’s cut in VAT on tourist-related services. This has encouraged more of our overseas visitors to stay in hotels rather than with friends or relatives. The joint efforts of Government, the tourism agencies and the industry are clearly delivering in terms of supporting this vital source of employment and revenue,” Minister Varadkar said.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring added that: ‘Building on these encouraging results from 2012, and drawing on early indications from this year to date, I am confident that we can continue to grow tourism for Ireland during The Gathering Ireland 2013. Visitor numbers are doing well so far, confidence within the tourist industry is at its highest level in recent years, and Ireland has improved its relative competitiveness for international tourism and travel.
“With the buzz and excitement around Ireland and The Gathering continuing to build, particularly after a successful St Patrick’s weekend around the country, I just know that the exciting programme of national and local Gathering events for the remainder of the year will draw additional visitors from near and far to sample the many delights Ireland has to offer,” said Mr Ring.