Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has said he is confident that visitor numbers will increase in 2012, after the CSO confirmed today that the figures for the year to date are on a par with 2011.
The CSO’s figures for February to April 2012 showed visitor numbers effectively level with the same time last year, with a marginal decrease of 0.2%. This compares favourably with the decline of 1.2% on the previous year in the January to March period.
“Tourism figures have been relatively flat so far this year but we expect them to turn positive in the months ahead. Visits from Great Britain are up slightly and figures for other important markets are also showing growth,” he said.
Minister Varadkar noted encouraging growth in visits from Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries. “The continuing positive performance from other countries outside Europe and North America shows that the Government’s plan to attract tourists from new and developing markets, with initiatives like the Visa Waiver Programme, is proving effective in these areas.”
The latest CSO figures on overseas travel show:
• The number of visits remained steady from our most important market, Great Britain, increasing by 0.3 % compared to the same period in 2011 (653,100 visits);
• Other (i.e. long-haul) markets registered an encouraging 14.5% increase between February and April 2012 (72,000 visits);
• There were 1,401,100 overseas trips to Ireland for the three month period between February and April 2012 – a marginal 0.2% decrease on the corresponding period last year;
• Visits from mainland Europe were at a similar level to the same period in 2011 (497,700 visits);
• Visits from Italy returned to growth (+12.5%), with Germany (+4.3%), Scandinavia (+2%) and the Benelux countries (+5.7%) also growing;
• The number of visits from North America was down by 7.2 % for the three months, with a total of 178,400 visits.
“I remain confident about our prospects for 2012. Despite continuing economic uncertainty in many markets, there are plenty of reasons to expect a strong tourism performance this year. The tourism industry is already reporting positive signs in terms of enquiries and bookings – as highlighted by recent comments from Irish Ferries,” Minister Varadkar said.
“The new Tourism Ireland campaigns, supported by the Government’s investment in the Tourism Marketing Fund, are being well received. When you consider that inbound capacity on flights into Ireland is set to rise by 3% this summer, along with the most competitively-priced hotel rooms in Western Europe, as well as our continuing investment in tourism product, we are on track for sustainable growth.
“However, we cannot afford to be complacent. The entire tourism sector must keep fighting for business, while the tourism agencies are promoting many exciting events. Minister Ring and I are confident that the Gathering Ireland 2013 will drive further growth in tourist numbers, with nationwide support for the year-long programme of festivals, events and other gatherings.”
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring said: ‘I am looking forward to bringing the message of The Gathering to every part of Ireland in town hall meetings over the coming months as part of our efforts to get the whole country behind this extraordinary initiative. But I also want to remind everyone of the fantastic quality, value and sheer fun they can have on holidays in Ireland this year’.