The Obama effect: tourism numbers up
Some of the country's top tourist attractions – including the Book of Kells exhibition viewed by Michelle Obama and her two daughters last Tuesday – are seeing more visitors coming through their doors this year than they did during the boom.
In the first five months of this year, 184,630 people came to see the Book of Kells – about six per cent more than over the same months in 2007. As 2007 has been the best year yet for the famous manuscript, if visitor numbers continue their upward trend, the numbers coming to see the Book of Kells could hit an all-time record in 2013.
Last year, 561,259 people viewed the famous manuscript – just shy of the 567,632 visitors in 2007.
The Rock of Cashel – the historic site visited by Queen Elizabeth II about two years ago – has seen its numbers jump by about one-fifth over the past six years. More than 67,800 people travelled to the Rock in the first five months of this year, compared to 55,938 in the first five months of 2007.
"Since the queen's visit, our visitor numbers have increased steadily each year," said a spokeswoman for the Rock. "The 'queen effect' has most definitely lasted. We still get a lot of questions about the visit on guided tours."
And 2013 could also turn into a bumper year for the Cliffs of Moher. Sightseers to the cliffs so far are about nine per cent higher than over the same months in 2007. Almost a million people visited the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre in 2007 – its best year yet. The Gathering has helped hike visitor numbers, according to Katherine Webster, director of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience. "We've also seen a very strong performance from the North American and German group tour market," said Ms Webster.
Dublin Zoo, which had a record year in 2012, saw 333,857 people come through its doors in the first five months of this year – about one-10th more than in the first five months of 2007. The boost in visitor numbers follows the tough years of 2008, 2009 and 2010 when the economic downturn saw the number of people going to tourist sites plummet.
Visitor numbers have largely started to pick up since then. In the first five months of this year, the number of beer fans who dropped in to the Guinness Hopstore (also visited by Queen Elizabeth in 2011) was about seven per cent higher than it was over the same months in 2012.
"The US market has been performing exceedingly well since the beginning of 2013," said a spokesman for the famous Dublin brewery.
The numbers visiting Bunratty Castle, which has been holding medieval-style banquets for the past 50 years, is up slightly in the first five months of 2013 when compared to the same months in 2012. "We have noticed a pick-up in US and other international markets," said John Ruddle, chief executive of Shannon Heritage, which runs Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. "The Gathering is also having a good impact."
The Natural History Museum has also seen an increase in attendances over the past year.