Saturday 18 August 2018

It's official: 2017 is the best ever year for tourism in Ireland

Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Deposit
Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Deposit
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

With over two weeks of the year left to run, Tourism Ireland is calling it. 2017 was a record year for Irish tourism.

10.65 million visitors came to the island this year, the marketing organisation says, contributing some €5.78 billion to the coffers in the process.

In revenue terms, that's a 6.7pc rise on 2016 -  the previous record year.

"2017 looks set to be another record year for overseas tourism to Ireland," said Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, who added that overseas tourism would help to sustain 225,000 jobs in communities around the country.

Growth was recorded in all main markets this year, with the exception of Britain - which has seen visitors drop since the pro-Brexit vote in June 2016.

Booming numbers are due to several factors, including a global economic upswing, increased air access, and the halo effect from TV and film exposure in Star Wars and Game of Thrones, both of which feature scenes filmed in Ireland.

With Star Wars: The Last Jedi set to hit cinemas this Friday, Tourism Ireland has launched a €500,000 promotional campaign, while Fáilte Ireland is rolling out some stellar marketing of its own, including a 360-degree video of Skellig Michael, a cinema ad, and a touring itinerary on wildatlanticway.com/starwars.

Next year, Tourism Ireland plans to grow overseas tourism revenue by a further +5pc, it says, shooting for €6 billion in revenue for economies north and south.

Concerns about British visitors notwithstanding (trips were down 6.5pc in the first nine months of 2017, the CSO says), the omens are good.

In recent months, Lonely Planet named Belfast and the Causeway Coast the world's No.1 travel region for 2018, while National Geographic Traveler listed Dublin on a Best of the World 2018 list now in front of millions of US readers.

Skellig Michael, seen in an aerial photograph this winter. The island, with a monastic settlement dating from 588AD, is a major location in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Skellig Michael, seen in an aerial photograph this winter. The island, with a monastic settlement dating from 588AD, is a major location in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Skellig Michael's six beehive huts seen from the air - the island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Skellig Michael is home to thousands of Atlantic puffins, at least from March to September. These colourful, enigmatic seabirds spend their summers on the island, breeding and fattening their chicks on locally available food which often comprises of high calorie sand-eel and sprat. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
The monastic Island of Skellig Michael was founded in 588 by Saint Fionán - for 600 years the island was a centre of monastic life for Irish Christian monks. It's a main location for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
Skellig Michael, home to one of Europe's better known but least accessible monasteries. The word 'Scellic' means a steep rock. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Skellig Michael's monastic huts - for 600 years the island was a centre of monastic life for Irish Christian monks. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Located 12 kilometres off the coast County Kerry’s Inveragh Peninsula, Skellig Michael is the most spectacular of all the early medieval island monastic sites. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Ceann Sibéal or Sybil's Head, on the Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry. It features as a location in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Ceann Sibéal or Sybil's Head, on the Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the location is used to replicate the monastic Island of Skellig Michael. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
An aerial shot of Skellig Michael, which has six beehive huts situated almost at the summit of the 230-metre-high rock. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Skellig Michael first became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits cinemas on December 15. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
View from Skellig Ring, Iveragh Peninsula, Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
Ceann Sibéal or Sybil's Head, on the Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Telling a few ‘Porgies’…Local Guide Muiris Walsh of Iveragh Historical Tours dresses as ‘Chewbacca’ in the newly named ‘Porgmagee’ (Portmagee) Co Kerry, where Film Stars and crew departed for Skellig Michael, the Location of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
Spectacular: Skellig Island, taken from the air. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

Next year, Cathay Pacific will fly direct from Dublin to Hong Kong, Aer Lingus adds Seattle and Philadelphia, and Irish Ferries launches its new ferry, the WB Yeats, which will double the number of sailings between France and Ireland.

"We are heading into 2018 in a position of some strength, based on the success of 2017," said Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland's Chief Executive.

“In 2018, we will create ‘stand out’ campaigns for the island of Ireland around the world, highlighting iconic experiences like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route," he said.

Dublin and Belfast will also be promoted, particularly for shoulder and off-peak travel.

Read more:

The Causeway Coast in 12 Giant Steps: Our ultimate driving guide

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