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Increase in overseas visitors welcomed with cautious optimism

Minister Leo Varadkar and the IHF say figures are a promising sign of the sector’s recovery, but point out the drop last year due to volcanic ash.

Image: Scarto via Creative Commons

THE NUMBER of overseas visitors to Ireland rose by 15.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2011 compared with Q2 2010, according to new figures released today by the CSO.

While Great Britain remains the number one source of overseas visitors to Ireland, with 761,000 visitors in Q2 2011, the number of visitors from other European countries grew by almost a quarter to 620,700. The volume of North American visitors increased by 17 per cent to 308,800.

Visits within Ireland

Meanwhile, the total number of trips taken by people living in Ireland – whether travelling overseas or within the state – rose by 10.5 per cent to 3,552,600 in Q2. Irish residents travelled abroad more in Q2 2011 than for the same period last year, with an increase of 5.9 per cent recorded in the second quarter of this year.

Irish residents took 1,771,000 trips abroad in the second quarter. Overseas visitors took only slightly more trips to Ireland in that timeframe, at 1,781,600 visits.

Cautious welcome

Responding to the CSO figures, the Irish Hotels Federation said it welcomed the increase in overseas visitors, saying that there are early indications of a turnaround in the sector. However, IHF President Paul Gallagher said that last year saw a “significant drop” in visitors due to travel disruptions caused by volcanic ash.

“[S]o it comes as no surprise that figures are now up on the same period last year,” he said. Gallagher added that figures from the next quarter would give the “first real insight as to whether there has been a sustained recovery in overseas markets”.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar acknowledged that weather disruptions had an impact on visitor numbers last year, but said that the CSO figures still show “indications on the ground that overseas travel to Ireland is moving into recovery”.

Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring said that the number of Irish residents who have been holidaying within the state shows that people are “rediscovering what makes Ireland special as a place to go on holiday”.

Tourism Ireland also issued a cautious welcome after the CSO data release. The organisation said that while the outlook for North American and European visitors remains strong, “the economic situation in Britain remains fragile”.

In a recent TheJournal.ie poll on whether Ireland is a good-value destination for tourists, a slight majority (47 per cent) said that Ireland is better value than it was a few years ago, but prices still need to come down. Forty-three per cent said they find Ireland completely overpriced.

Poll: Do you think Ireland is good value for tourists? >

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