Visitor numbers up 5.4% for first half of Gathering year

Positive trend in 2013 tourism figures continues

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar, Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland have welcomed the latest official data on overseas travel from the Central Statistics Office, which reported an increase of 5.4% in overseas visits to Ireland for the first half of 2013 compared to January-June 2012.

Minister Varadkar said: ‘We now have official figures for the first half of The Gathering year and the signs continue to be very positive. So far, it looks like the initiative is persuading people to visit Ireland. The last few weeks alone have seen high-profile events like the Riverdance Gathering, companies holding conferences in Ireland, or small family get-togethers taking place across the country like the Strawberry Fair in Dublin’.

Today’s CSO figures on Overseas Travel show:
• At almost 3.145 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 5.4% in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. For the three-month period from April to June 2013, overseas trips to Ireland increased by 4.2% to 1.893 million trips;
• Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 7.9% for January to June 2013, to 1.149 million visits and by 4.9% for the April to June period (705,200 visits);
• North America registered an increase of 15.4% for January – June 2013 (519,600 visits) and of 14.8% in the April – June 2013 period (350,800 visits);
• However, visits from Great Britain were unchanged for January – June 2013 (1.297 million visits) but fell slightly 1.1% for the three months from April to June 2013 compared to the corresponding period of 2012 (726,900 visits) reflecting ongoing difficult economic conditions there;
• Visits from the rest of the world, mostly long-haul and developing markets, totalled 178,900 for the first six months of 2013 (representing an increase of 5.7%) and 110,100 for the three months from April to June alone (representing an increase of 5.9%).

“I am particularly pleased to see numbers from North America performing so well and increasing by a very impressive 15.4% in the first six months of the year. American visitors remain of critical importance in terms of visitor spend in Ireland. The numbers published today represent the highest total first half-year performance since 2009. Events like next year’s Croke Park Classic between University of Central Florida and Penn State in Dublin will keep the momentum going next year,” Minister Varadkar added.

Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring said: “The figures are very encouraging, and of course the recent good weather has been a tremendous boost for domestic tourism with many people choosing to stay in Ireland this year. We have a number of big festivals coming up such as the Galway Races next week, the Rose of Tralee Festival next month and the hundreds of Gatherings across Ireland.”

Welcoming the latest figures Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: ‘As we are now in the high season, today’s figures from the CSO for the first six months of 2013 are very encouraging. The Gathering Ireland has certainly played a major role in helping boost visitor numbers for the first half of the year. Certain markets are performing particularly well this year, including North America (+15.4%). Tourism Ireland believes that we are on course to achieve our best year ever from the United States; in 2013, we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about US$1 billion. We believe that Mainland Europe (+7.9%) will also be critical for tourism growth this year. Great Britain continues to be challenging, with the pace of economic recovery and weak consumer confidence still continuing to impact on outbound travel’.

“And the outlook for 2014 is also positive – with the recent announcement by Aer Lingus of a major expansion on its transatlantic services to Ireland next year, which will include new, year-round flights from San Francisco and Toronto. Other recent good news which augurs well for prospects for tourism from North America was the announcement of the University of Central Florida v Penn State season opener at Croke Park in August 2014.”

Fáilte Ireland today welcomed the latest tourism statistics with Fáilte Ireland CEO, Shaun Quinn emphasising:

“Today’s figures confirm what we, in Fáilte Ireland, have been hearing anecdotally from tourism businesses throughout the country over the last few months. Obviously, The Gathering is ‘doing what it says on the tin’ and is having an impact in those markets it was particularly geared towards. It is also clear that there has been a turnaround in our North American and European markets in general and, along with the recent good weather’s effect on the performance of the domestic market, this summer is shaping up to be one of the best enjoyed by the tourism sector in quite a while.”