Visitor numbers hit badly by ash crisis
THE volcanic ash crisis caused a dramatic drop in the number of Irish people travelling overseas in April.
Outbound travel was even harder hit by airport closures than incoming tourism, new figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal.
Some 161,500 or 28pc fewer people travelled from Ireland than in the same month last year, down from 579,400 to 417,900.
But tourism to Ireland also suffered with 25pc drop in visitors in the month to 456,500.
And not surprisingly it was European and American visitors who were most put off, with a 36pc and 33pc slump in visits respectively, whereas visits from Britain -- which has been the worst hit the rest of the year -- were down by 14pc, as many were still able to get here by ferry.
Tourism to Ireland remains in the doldrums with a 23pc drop in visitor numbers for the year so far, but the Irish appetite for foreign travel has been less hard hit, though it is still down by 12pc. Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin said it should still be noted that 1.5 million tourists had come here in the first four months of the year.
"The first third of the year has been probably the most prolonged challenging period for the tourism sector throughout the world due to global economic conditions," she said.
"Air access to Ireland and Europe was greatly affected in April due to the closure of airspace because of the Icelandic volcano ash plume -- some 104,000 flights were cancelled in Europe at that time."
People were booking holidays later than ever before and with more than 60pc of holidaymakers arriving between May and September, Tourism Ireland was running an intensive €20m marketing campaign in Britain, the US, Germany and France, she said.
The opening of the Convention Centre in Dublin later this year as well as the first rugby and soccer matches in the new Aviva Stadium would also attract thousands of people.