Tourist numbers plummet 25pc as volcanic ash cloud takes toll
THE decline in the number of tourists coming to Ireland continued in May with numbers down by nearly 25pc compared with the same month last year.
According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office, 502,500 people visited during the month. That compared with 657,500 visitors last year and more than 800,000 for the corresponding month in 2008. There are now more than 4,250 fewer people visiting Ireland each day than a year ago.
May's figures, however, were negatively affected by the volcanic ash crisis, which curtailed flights in and out of the country for eight days.
Overall, 2.03 million people came to the Republic in the first five months of the year -- a drop of more than 640,000 on the 2009 figures. Visits from the UK decreased by 30pc while trips to Ireland from the rest of Europe and North America fell by nearly 20pc and 17pc respectively.
The decline in the numbers of Irish people travelling overseas has lessened but overall figures now stand at 2006 levels. Some 559,300 Irish people took trips abroad in May -- a decline of 4.8pc on last year.
The statistics came on the same day as the establishment by Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin of the Renewal Implementation Group, which is aimed at driving competitiveness in the tourism industry.
"The Government, this department, and the tourism agencies are working to assist the sector, to maximise business for Irish tourism and to ensure that the tourism agenda is in all relevant policies," she said.
However, Fine Gael tourism spokesman Jimmy Deenihan described the visitor numbers as "catastrophic" and called on the Government to take action.
"These figures come on the back of declining month-on-month tourism numbers in 2010 and a catastrophic 2009. Marketing budgets must be targeted more efficiently especially considering that hotel prices are much lower now," he said.