€14m-a-year tourism boom
Erasmus+ works both ways and, as well as students, it brings at least 25,000 tourists a year
By the end of this decade, it is expected that in the region of 5,000-plus higher education students from Ireland will undertake a study visit or traineeship to one of the other 32 EU/EEA countries or to a country outside of Europe, every year.
What is also pretty certain is that in the region of more than 10,000 students will travel in this direction attracted by the English language, the international reputation of the higher education system, the friendly welcome and the fact that Ireland is generally regarded a safe place to live.
That imbalance can be a cause of concern to higher education institutions who do not receive any funding for enrolling more students than they send out. However, the wider economy benefits significantly from incoming Erasmus+ students.
Higher education students participating in Erasmus+, generally stay in their host country for six to nine months, which allows plenty of time for family and friends to visit.
A survey conducted in 2016 by the Erasmus+ National Agency at the Higher Education Authority (HEA) found that 80pc of these students received at least one visitor, with the overall average being 4.3 visitors per person. The duration of stay ranges from three to 15 days, averaging at seven.
Based on 2016 figures of 7,200 incoming students, this would have generated nearly 25,000 visitors, worth almost €14m to the economy.
Gerry O'Sullivan, head of the HEA International Office said: "International education partnerships drive tourism numbers, the benefits of which are felt nationwide with 36pc of students located in Dublin, 18pc in the rest of Leinster, 33pc in Munster and 12pc in Connacht/Ulster."
Dublin is the favourite destination, reflecting the most used point of entry to the country, followed by Galway, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Belfast and Derry, with Wicklow, Clare, Waterford and Donegal not far behind.
Five countries supply nearly 80pc of visitors: France 38pc, Germany 17pc, Spain 12pc, Italy 8pc and The Netherlands 4pc.
This trend is set to continue. The number of incoming students has increased significantly over the past seven years. In 2007/2008 Ireland welcomed 4,515 students from European higher education institutions. By 2015/16, it was 7,219, and it is likely to exceed 10,000 by 2020, with visitor numbers of the order of 35,000 to 40,000, per year, projected.
In 2016, the Government's International Education strategy, "Irish Educated, Globally Connected" estimated that the economic value of international education activity, including the English language sector, to Ireland was worth €1.6bn.