10 million tourists a year is new target: Minister
ALMOST three and a half million people visited Ireland in the first half of 2014, which is up 10pc on 2013. And the industry has the potential to attract 10 million people a year and employ 250,000 people by 2025, Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe has said.
The tourism industry already employs 200,000 people and has benefited from a very significant surge in visitor numbers already this year, he said.
Government policy - such as the 9pc Vat rate for tourism and the slashing of the airport tax- had helped and visitor numbers could be boosted further by an ambitious government strategy targeting further significant growth over the next decade, he said.
Mr Donohoe said he would look at delays in channelling visitors arriving at Dublin Airport through immigration to make sure they had the best possible start to their visit.
There has been strong growth from Ireland's major tourist markets, including a 13.6pc increase from Britain, which is Ireland's most important source of visitors, said Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons.
There had also been growth of over 10pc from north America, and 18pc from Germany.
Visitor number from certain key markets such as America, mainland Europe and Australia and other long-haul destinations were already up on the previous six-month record in 2008.
Tourism Ireland expected to reach 200 million people worldwide with its global advertising campaign and now had 2.25 million Facebook fans and was the second biggest tourism board on YouTube and Twitter, helping it reach more potential visitors.
New air routes, such as from Toronto and Cologne, meant air access was now close to the record levels of 2008, Mr Gibbons said at a mid-year briefing .
There were 366,000 seats a week to Ireland during the summer, which was almost 50,000 more a week than in 2010.
Tourism Ireland would focus on continued growth this autumn in order to extend the tourism season and encourage short cultural breaks.
"We are undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world throughout 2014 which includes a focus on the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on major events like Limerick City of Culture and the Croke Park Classic, when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener," he said. Events such as this week's Fleadh Ceoil and endorsements by influential celebrities like astronaut Chris Hadfield were also influential.