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Record year for tourism as visitors pass the 10 million mark

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(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

It's official - 2018 was a record year for Irish tourism, with overseas visitor numbers surpassing the 10 million milestone for the first time ever.

More than 10.6 million overseas arrivals were recorded last year, according to the Central Statistics Office's latest official overseas travel report - up from 9.93 million in 2017, which was itself a record year.

The figures saw North American visitors jump 13.4pc to almost 2.4 million, while tourists from mainland Europe rose 9.5pc (driven by Germany and Italy) and Australia and developing markets recorded an increase of 6.7pc. British figures were largely static, posting growth of just 1pc.

"Whilst the British market was somewhat flat, this is not surprising given the uncertainty attaching to Brexit," said Tourism Minister Shane Ross.

"Overall, though, it is heartening to see market diversification is driving our growth."

Despite the good show, Brexit hangs like a sword of Damocles over the tourist industry. Historically, Britain has been the single most important inbound market for Irish tourism, and still accounts for over 35pc of all visitors.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, welcomed the record figures but said the continued uncertainty around Brexit, and its impact on outbound travel from Britain, "remains a real concern".

As the Brexit cut-off date of March 29 approaches, Tourism Ireland has been focusing on diversifying Ireland's source markets, while Fáilte Ireland is managing a €5m fund to prepare businesses for the challenges it may bring.

Irish Independent