| 11.4°C Dublin

Ireland is back on tourism map with over 7.25m visitors


Ha'penny bridge

Ha'penny bridge

Ha'penny bridge

OVER 7.25 million overseas visitors landed on Irish soil in 2014 giving a massive boost to the hospitality industry.

The average room occupancy rate for hotels and guest houses across the country reached 64pc last year, up 3pc on 2013.

Dublin hotels continued to lead the pack with the second highest occupancy in Europe at just over 73pc.

The figures were released by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) ahead of its 77th annual conference, which gets under way in Co Cavan today.

IHF President Steven McNally welcomed the news stating that the "Ireland was now back on the tourism map."

"There is a real sense of optimism in the sector following a strong performance last year," Mr McNally told the Herald.

He said consumer confidence in the domestic market had also strengthened noting that 70pc of the overall occupancy rates stemmed from the Irish market.

"Though still fragile, tourism businesses are seeing signs of an upturn in the home market with people gradually starting to take more trips at home and spending more money in the local economy," Mr McNally added.

The IHF has said more than 33,000 jobs have been created in the wider tourism and hospitality sector since 2011 and the tourism industry now supports approximately 205,000 jobs.

The new figures show overseas visitors grew by 586,000 to 7.27 million, with increases across all key markets.

Visitors from North America were up by 15pc to 1.2 million in 2014. Visitors from mainland Europe were up 7pc to 2.5 million while visitors from Britain - Ireland's main tourism market - were up by 8pc to 3.1 million.

Mr McNally attributed the 9pc tourism VAT rate as a key factor in the increased trade since its introduction in 2011.

"This initiative has brought us more closely in line with tourism VAT rates across the rest of Europe, making Ireland more competitive as a destination," he said.

"It also means people can go out for a meal at a reasonable cost."

IHF predicting a further 6pc increase in tourist numbers in 2015.