Thursday 25 December 2014

Irish tourism set for another boom year as uplift goes on

Guinness Storehouse and Book of Kells see 10pc rise in visitors

Published 10/08/2014 | 02:30

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at the Guinness Storehouse - the visit would not have taken place without the garda digital radio service.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at the Guinness Storehouse - the visit would not have taken place without the garda digital radio service.
VISITORS: US First Lady Michelle Obama with her daughters Sasha and Malia Ann with Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast at Trinity.
VISITORS: Aussie tourists Lindsay and Melissa Klassen, Christie Hodge and Maddi Brick at the Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Eamon Ward

This year is turning into another boom year for the Irish tourist industry, with some of the country's top tourist attractions seeing more visitors come through their doors than in 2013.

Last year was a bumper year for tourism here, with The Gathering - a series of festivals which encouraged the diaspora to return to Ireland - helping to boost visitor numbers.

That momentum is continuing, with some of the country's top attractions seeing visitor numbers up about 10pc so far this year. Many are also seeing a pick-up in British visitors for the first time since the recession.

The number of sightseers who flocked to the Cliffs of Moher in the first seven months of this year is about 9pc higher than over the same months in 2013. "For the first time since 2006, we are seeing growth from the all-important British market," said Katherine Webster, director of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience. The cliffs are also a hit with German, French and US tourists - as well as tourists from more far-flung destinations.

"The German, French and US markets are all performing strongly," said Webster. "We are also continuing to see excellent growth from new and developing markets like Australia, China and Russia."

The launch of new flights into Shannon Airport earlier this year has helped boost visitor numbers, said Webster. So too has the Wild Atlantic Way, the west of Ireland tourism trail launched last February.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, more tourists seem to have developed a taste for a pint of the black stuff.

"We had a good year last year with The Gathering - and this year is up again," said Paul Carty, managing director of the Guinness Storehouse. "We had 700,000 visitors in the first seven months of this year - that's 10pc higher than the same time last year."

Carty attributed much of this growth to the return of the British market as well as the emergence of the world from recession.

In the first seven months of this year, there was a 25pc jump in the number of British tourists visiting the Storehouse, a 24pc increase in American visitors and a 10pc rise in German visitors.

"The British market fell off a cliff a few years ago," said Carty. "Sterling is stronger now and the British economy is coming out of recession. So British people now have the confidence to travel more. The world's tourism market is certainly starting to move. The Americans are known as being great travellers - and as soon as there's economic stability, they start to travel again."

The Book of Kells continues to be a major draw for tourists. Last year, 588,723 visitors came to see the ancient manuscript - its best year yet. So far this year, 382,217 people have come to see the manuscript - 10pc more than over the same months in 2013.

"All indications are that this year will be a bumper year," said a spokeswoman for Trinity College Dublin (TCD). "We are extremely busy."

Excursions Ireland is a tour operator which arranges day tours around Ireland. The number of bookings it has taken for day trips to TCD since May is almost three times that taken over the same months in 2013. About 7,000 people have booked day trips to Blarney Castle through Excursions Ireland so far this year, which is on a par with last year.

The tour operator has seen an increase in the numbers booking trips to Muckross House and Gardens in Killarney and the Old Midleton Distillery in Cork.

The National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology on Dublin's Kildare Street has seen a 9pc jump in visitor numbers so far this year. "We saw a big increase in numbers after the launch of the 'Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin' exhibition," said a spokeswoman for the museum.

The recent baby boom at Dublin Zoo has helped attract visitors there. In the first seven months of this year, 656,435 people visited Dublin Zoo - a 3pc increase on the same months in 2013. "Families are looking for fun, educational activities to do together," said Leo Oosterweghel, director of Dublin Zoo.

Some tourist attractions, however, have not enjoyed the same strong pick up in visitor numbers. While Dublin's Natural History Museum and the Museum of Country Life in Mayo has seen more visitors this year, the museum of Decorative Arts and History has seen its numbers dip by about 7pc.

The appetite for medieval banquets has remained flat over the last year. About 165,000 tourists visited Bunratty Castle in the first seven months of this year - which is on a par with last year. "The trend is for a poor start to the year and getting better as the year goes on," said John Ruddle, chief executive of Shannon Heritage. "The number of visitors in July was 7pc better than 2013. There are more international visitors around generally, but they are more cautious about spending."

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