Tourism chiefs say that high visitor figures are distorted
Published 23/08/2011 | 15:02
A boost to tourism numbers this year is no surprise as the sector was decimated by the volcanic ash cloud in 2010, experts have warned.
Official figures revealed almost 1.8 million trips were made to the country between April and June - up 240,000 or 15% on the same period last year.
But tourism chiefs said comparisons with 2010 - when European airspace was closed by Icelandic volcanic ash - were distorted.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said: "While the figures are a positive indication, we cannot afford to be complacent.
"With continuing economic uncertainty in most of our key overseas markets, the tourism agencies and the industry will continue to work together to restore sustainable growth to this vital sector.
"The Government is playing its part through measures such as the VAT cut, reduced employers' PRSI, and the visa waiver scheme, to support competitiveness as well as key investments to upgrade our tourism products and attractions."
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures showed almost three million visitors arrived through Irish airports and ports in the first six months of the year, up from 2.6 million.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, revealed May was also particularly positive for tourism, with the historic visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama and the Uefa Europa League final in Dublin.
"Anecdotal reports from our industry partners around the island of Ireland confirm a more positive picture overall than this time last year," he said.
Visitor numbers from the UK rose by almost 100,000 to 1.3 million up to the end of June, while trips by residents from North America went up to 462,400.
Holidaymakers from across mainland Europe also jumped to more than a million, with 151,900 coming from other areas in the world.
Approximately 6.7 million overseas visitors came to the island of Ireland in 2010, with almost half coming from Great Britain.
Paul Gallagher, president of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), said there were early indications the tourism sector is beginning to see a turnaround.
"In 2010, we experienced a significant drop in oversees visitor numbers as a result of the volcanic ash cloud so it comes as no surprise that figures are now up on the same period last year," he said.
"The figures for the third quarter will provide the first real insight as to whether there has been a sustained recovery in overseas markets.
"While Dublin has experienced an increase in tourism activity, other parts of the country continue to face significant challenges with domestic business down in the West, particularly in Claire, Limerick, Galway and Donegal."
Elsewhere the CSO said the number of overseas trips by Irish residents also increased to just over 1.7 million, a 5.9% rise, over April to June and to more than three million over the first six months.
Junior minister Michael Ring said even though overseas visits to Ireland continue to grow, Irish people are no longer travelling abroad as much as they used to.
"This shows that Irish people, as well as overseas visitors, are rediscovering what makes Ireland special as a place to go on holiday," he said.
"Once again Ireland is offering real value, world-class quality and genuine hospitality."