Official CSO figures for the first half of 2018 confirm growth of 6.7% in overseas visitors to Ireland, which represents 307,000 more arrivals than the record first half of 2017. At this week's mid-year review of overseas tourism, minister for transport, tourism and sport Shane Ross and Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons, confirmed that this growth has come from all of Ireland's main market areas around the world (Britain, North America, Mainland Europe, Australia and Emerging Markets).
Ross and Gibbons outlined what has contributed to the tourism growth so far this year as well as discussing the challenges for Irish tourism to sustain growth into 2019 and beyond. These include external factors such as oil price rises, changes in the fortunes of key markets like the US, international trade barriers and air travel disruption. Other challenges include capacity constraints in Dublin and tourism ‘hotspots’.
Of course, Brexit dominates all other uncertainties. Britain is a vital market for tourism to Ireland; it delivers 38% of all overseas visitors to Ireland and around 21% of all overseas tourism revenue.
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Ross stated, “I am very encouraged by the overseas visitor figures for the first half of 2018. Following the strong growth in recent years, it was always going to be a challenge to grow the numbers further this year and so the growth of 6.7% in visitor numbers in the first half of the year, when compared to the same period in 2017, is welcome. The tourism sector continues to prosper and, in doing so, it benefits the wider economy in terms of revenue and jobs. The sector now sustains approximately 240,000 jobs in communities around the country. It is essential that we sustain this growth from as wide a range of markets as possible in the face of challenges such as Brexit, oil prices and other international economic uncertainties. There is no doubt that competitiveness and value for money are vital to sustaining growth in the industry in the next few years. The continued growth of the sector over the last number of years is testament to the great work being done all across the sector and today, I want to congratulate Tourism Ireland on their continued success in marketing the island of Ireland abroad as a tourist destination.”
Meanwhile, Gibbons commented, “We have seen an excellent performance so far from North America – up 10.7% on the first half in 2017, making it another record year. Ireland now welcomes 10% of all American visitors to Europe – particularly noteworthy given the intense competition from other destinations. It has also been the best ever first-half performance from Mainland Europe (+10.2%), with important markets like Germany, Italy and the Nordic Region all recording really good growth.”
The Brexit Factor
Gibbons added, “While we very much welcome this first-half performance, we are certainly not complacent and are aware of the need to address certain challenges to sustain growth into the future. The impact of Brexit on outbound travel from Britain remains a concern. The fall in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors and has made Britain more affordable for visitors from many of our top markets. Ireland needs to be seen as offering an excellent value-for-money holiday experience, so competitiveness and value for money remain more important than ever in Britain.”
© 2018 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.