Cheaper prices key to huge surge in tourism
A favourable exchange rate and cheaper prices helped bring hundreds of thousands more tourists here in the first six months of the year.
The country welcomed 3.9 million visitors between January and June. This marked an increase of 11.7pc, or 407,100 visitors, compared with the same time last year.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said the main reason we were seeing unprecedented numbers was because of a lowering of the VAT rate for tourism-related sectors to 9pc, a common visa programme between the UK and Ireland, and the reduction of the air travel tax to zero.
Visitors are mainly coming from Britain, North America, and mainland Europe, Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed.
He said: "We must now ensure that Ireland's tourism sector can continue to grow in a way that is sustainable from an economic, social and environmental perspective."
"We must be mindful of the mistakes that were made in the past and ensure that they are not repeated - our value for money rating has improved dramatically in recent years."
In 2009, 41pc of tourists reported poor value for money when coming here. This figure fell to 9pc in 2014.
The second half of 2015 was set to show similar growth, as new air routes planned for the country would see "unprecedented levels of access", Mr Gibbons added.
There has been concern that increased numbers of tourists to the capital may drive up accommodation prices. Dublin currently has 42,000 hotel rooms available but may not meet demand in years to come.
The minister said: "We must work with the industry to insure that the increase in demand will not make hotel prices too much."
Mr Gibbons added: "We are determined to ensure that tourism growth continues. We are undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world in 2015 which includes a focus on the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on events like Yeats2015 and ID2015.
"We are also showcasing the new Dublin Discovery Trails and paving the way for Ireland's Ancient East and the Gobbins Cliff Path. We will shortly launch an extensive global autumn campaign, to boost business in the off-peak season."
Oxford Economics predicts the effect of the strong dollar over the weaker euro will drive an extra 1.1pc volume from the US into the European market.
American and British visitors here are enjoying a favourable exchange rate this summer. There has been a 9.4pc rise in UK visitors and a 15pc rise in tourists from the US and Canada. But there was also impressive growth in visitors from certain European countries including a 32pc surge from Italy.
This represented the best ever first-half performance for tourists from mainland Europe coming to Ireland.