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Tourism chiefs positive but admit people want short, cheap holidays

PEOPLE still want to take holidays but they will be shorter, closer to home and carefully budgeted, tourism chiefs believe.

Visitor numbers to Ireland surged by 7pc to just over six million in the first 11 months of 2011.

But over the same period, the number of trips abroad by Irish people fell by almost 300,000.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said the overall outlook for travel and tourism remained positive despite recent economic turmoil damaging consumer confidence.

"It is important to remember that people around the world still want to take holidays," Mr Gibbons said.

"The trend is that people are continuing to travel but taking shorter trips, staying closer to home and being careful with their money."

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed the number of tourists who came to Ireland dipped toward the end of the year, with figures showing a drop of 4.1pc to 1.5 million between September and November last.

Tim Fenn, chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), said the drop-off in overseas visitors late last year could be seen in disappointing occupancy levels in hotels and guesthouses outside Dublin.

"Occupancy rates are significantly stronger in Dublin but lagging particularly in the west, midlands and south-east," Mr Fenn said.

Tourism chiefs have launched a major advertisement campaign 'Jump into Ireland' targeting the country's most important market, the UK.

The television advertisements shot in Ireland by award-winning director Daniel Wolfe and 'Wuthering Heights' cinematographer Robbie Ryan feature a song from Snow Patrol's latest album.

The advertisements will also be aired in France and Germany, in cinemas in the UK, US, Spain, Italy and online.

Mr Gibbons said events in 2012 such as the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway and the Notre Dame-Navy American football game in the Aviva Stadium would prove major tourist attractions.

At the same time, visa company, Visafirst.com, reported an increase in applications among Irish people looking for permanent residence in Australia.

Edwina Shanahan, manager at Visafirst, said people were applying in advance of the Australian government planning to make changes to the skilled visa programme from July 1, 2012.

She said the changes would make it harder for people to access visas as people would be ranked in terms of the occupations and skillsets required.

Irish Independent