Fáilte Ireland warns visitors may not be getting value for money
Fáilte Ireland, Ireland's National Tourism Development Authority, has warned that the country needs to continue to be seen as offering an excellent value-for-money experience.
On the back of increasing visitor numbers to Ireland in the first four months of 2018, Paul Kelly, chief executive of Fáilte Ireland, said that its research is picking up a softening in Ireland's value-for-money ratings.
Should this trend continue Ireland will be seen as an expensive destination for tourists, and the work of recent years by the sector will be undone.
"It could take us years to reverse that perception," Mr Kelly said.
Mr Kelly also used the publication of visitor numbers from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to call for increased investment from both the public and private sector in all areas of tourism, from accommodation to visitor attractions and infrastructure, in order to build the country's tourism capacity.
Overall, Ireland welcomed 2.8 million visitors in the first four months of 2018, a 7.3pc increase on the same period in 2017.
The increase in visitor numbers was driven by North America, with visitors from this market up 13.6pc year-on-year in the four-month period, according to figures from the CSO.
The CSO also recorded a strong improvement in visitor numbers from mainland Europe to Ireland during the four-month period. Overall, visits from mainland Europe increased 12.3pc to 1,031,200 during the period.
Despite concerns around Brexit and the fall in value of sterling against the euro, visitor numbers from Britain also increased, up 1.1pc to 1,121,000 in the four-month period.
However, Tourism Ireland said that the increase in visitor numbers from Britain to Ireland did not represent a turnaround in the long-term trend.
"The impact of Brexit on outbound travel from Britain... remains a concern," Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said.
Describing the increase in visitor numbers from mainland Europe to Ireland as "excellent", Mr Gibbons said that Germany and Italy had been "particularly strong" - with visitor numbers from the two countries to Ireland up 24.3pc and 21.9pc respectively during the four-month period.
"Tourism Ireland has prioritised mainland Europe and North America as markets which offer a strong return on investment, in terms of holiday visitors and expenditure," Mr Gibbons said.
Commenting on the figures, Minister for Tourism Shane Ross said that the continued growth in visitor numbers reflects the on-going efforts of the tourism agencies, in collaboration with the tourism sector, to market Ireland at a range of markets with the highest revenue growth potential.
During the period, visitors from the rest of the world to Ireland increased by just under 3pc to 158,100. Here, Asia is seen as having major potential for Irish tourism, and Tourism Ireland recently led a sales mission to China accompanied by 29 tour operators from the island of Ireland.
"China has huge potential as an emerging travel market for Ireland and one that Tourism Ireland is committed to growing over the coming years," Minister Ross said. On the reverse, the number of overseas trips made by Irish residents during April decreased by 2.8pc to 658,400.