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Press Release

Ministers welcome increased overseas visitor numbers

Published: 28 January 2020
From: Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, today welcomed the latest official overseas visitor data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The figures show that there was a slight increase in overseas visitor numbers in 2019. Total overseas visitor numbers have grown steadily every year since 2010 up to and including 2019 where there were 10,807,500 overseas visits to Ireland. Overall, 2019 was a mixed year for Irish tourism with aviation issues and concerns over Brexit in Britain, and in some mainland European markets, impacting on travel intentions.

Comparing 2019 to the record year of 2018:

• Overall trips to Ireland were up by 1.8% to 10,807,500 visits;

• North America was up by 1.2% to 2,412,500 visits;

• Visits from Mainland Europe were up by 2.6% to 3,910,200 visits;

• Great Britain was up 0.8% with 3,787,700 visits;

• Visits from the rest of the world increased by 5.5%, to 697,200 visits.

Commenting on the figures, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD stated: “Today’s CSO release confirms that last year was a mixed year for Irish tourism. Whilst there was with a slight increase in visitor numbers, indications are that resultant revenue has decreased. The level of growth in visitors is less than in previous years due to increased economic uncertainty in some of our main markets as well as issues in the aviation sector. Whilst we cannot influence economic conditions in our source markets, we must ensure that our tourism offering continues to offer value for money for overseas visitors. The fact that visitor numbers did grow following an exceptional 2018 reflects the increased investment of this Government in the sector in recent Budgets and is testament to the continued hard work of the Tourism agencies and the industry.

Last July, on the recommendation of Minister Griffin and I, the Government adopted revised performance targets for Irish tourism out to 2025. The primary target is to achieve €6.5 billion in revenue from overseas tourism in real terms by 2025. While this is a challenging target we must seek to reach it in a way that is sustainable. I am glad to see that for 2020 the tourism agencies are placing a strong focus on sustainability through spreading our tourism business more evenly around the entire island and encouraging more visitors in the off-season. Last month, under our Tourism Action Plan, I was pleased to announce a series of guiding principles for the development of sustainable tourism in Ireland, which will help to ensure that social, economic and environmental sustainability is central to Ireland’s tourism offering.”

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D. said: "There is no doubt that 2019 has been more challenging than previous years but this only serves to highlight how successful tourism in Ireland has been over the past decade. I am conscious that, as a result of this success, over 260,000 people are now dependent on tourism for their livelihood. This shows the importance of the sector and this importance is magnified in many rural areas. Aviation and air access issues remain a concern for the sector, but continued growth in travel demand, the receding uncertainty around Brexit and a more positive global economic outlook all point to a positive outlook for the sector in 2020.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Today’s figures from the CSO indicate that overseas arrivals increased by +1.8% in 2019, over 191,000 more than in 2018. 2019 has presented a mixed picture for Irish tourism and this is reflected in today’s CSO figures. We’ve seen a small increase in arrivals from Britain (+0.8%), a modest performance from both Mainland Europe (+2.6%) and North America (+1.2%) and arrivals from long-haul markets up +5.5%. However, North America has seen a disappointing decline of -5% for the month of December alone. There’s been a deterioration in air access capacity from North America this year, with a -9% decline for this winter. The figures very much reflect feedback from our industry partners on the ground, who’ve seen weaker demand this year. The continued uncertainty around Brexit is giving rise to consumer concern in Britain and some Mainland European markets. Our focus now is on the year ahead. Tourism Ireland’s campaigns are in full swing, to surpass the performance of 2019. The aim of our three-year strategy for 2020-2022 is to grow overseas tourism revenue to €6.54 billion (+13%) and visitor numbers to 12 million (+7%), by 2022. Tourism Ireland aims to spread the benefits of tourism more broadly across the island of Ireland, on a year-round basis.”

Responding to today’s CSO figures, Fáilte Ireland’s CEO, Paul Kelly said: “As we approach the Brexit deadline and the transition period that follows, Fáilte Ireland remains fully focused on delivering our business supports and mentoring programmes for the tourism industry to help it meet the challenges of Brexit and the many other demand and supply side challenges facing the sector. Today’s growth in visitor numbers does not appear to translate directly into tourism sector revenue which has not seen growth across all markets. This is due to a shortened average length of stay and changes in the mix of visitors coming to Ireland. It is important to note that this softening in revenue comes after a number of years of significant growth. Brexit certainty for 2020 has offered some short-term clarity that has helped tourism businesses on the ground to plan better, but with a wide of challenges on the horizon there is no room for complacency. If we want to maintain and grow employment in the sector, we need to ensure we are as competitive as possible and continue to offer a quality product and value for money.”