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Tourism truths

• Phelim O'Rourke's latest contribution to tourism -- 'Forget the Spin, Tourism Here is in Real Trouble' (Irish Independent, September 12) -- once again illustrates a scant understanding of tourism facts.

First, contrary to his assertion, the tourism data he refers to is collated and published by the Central Statistics Office, not Failte Ireland. It is difficult to understand how he can accuse Failte Ireland of spinning the facts when it neither issued nor commented on the data.

It is a matter of public record that in all our public statements on such matters, Failte Ireland has persistently highlighted the decline (from a 2007 peak) in 'holiday visitors' from key markets and the disparity in tourism performance across the country.

Failte Ireland has continually cautioned against any complacency and stressed that global consumer confidence is dependent on the economic well-being of our key overseas markets.

Secondly, to classify all those 'visiting family and relatives' as Irish emigrants displays a lack of understanding of demographic changes which have taken place in Ireland in recent years. It also fails to take into account the fact that international tourists are characterised by where they come from (ie, their country of residence), not their nationality.

In other words, 'international' tourists are defined by the CSO with reference to the country in which they reside. There is nothing in the CSO's data to support the view that all those whose main motivation was to visit friends or relatives were actually Irish nationals.

Thirdly, by limiting his focus solely to holidaying visitors and completely discounting all visits to friends and relatives, Mr O'Rourke ignores those segments (including the lucrative business visitor sector) which make up 4.6 million, or 70pc, of our international visitors.

Spending by any type of international visitor to Ireland represents export earnings as foreign money is being spent on Irish goods and services.

Such misconceptions highlight once again the current challenges to measuring tourism performance -- including the appropriateness of existing performance indicators and the need to obtain data on a more timely basis.

Caeman Wall
Head of Research, Failte Ireland

Irish Independent