Record year for tourists from North America & best year for overall tourism since 2008

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Ireland had a record year for visitors from North America in 2013 and it was also the best year for overseas tourism since 2008, Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar said today.

The CSO Overseas Tourism figures which were released earlier today show that a total of 6.986 million overseas visits were recorded last year, representing an increase of 7.2% on the 2012 figure. The total number of visits from North America amounted to 1.158 million, which exceeded the previous record set in 2008, and represented an increase of 13.9% on the 2012 figure. All of Ireland’s main overseas markets grew in 2013 compared to 2012; the number of visits from Great Britain grew by 5.6%; visits from Mainland Europe grew by 4.9% while there was also strong growth of 15.1% from other long-haul markets.

“Last year was a record year for visitors from North America and the best for overall tourism since 2008. The Gathering was enormously successful in generating additional visitor numbers. The North American market has always been key for Irish tourism where we have traditionally outperformed many of our competitors. The fact that we achieved our highest ever number of North American visitors in 2013 is a credit to the communities across Ireland who staged Gatherings and festivals during 2013,” Minister Varadkar said.

“Since coming into office, the Government has taken key decisions to support tourism. The 9% VAT rate, which was initially a short-term measure, has been retained. The Air Travel Tax is being reduced to zero from April, and this has helped to secure additional airline routes and capacity into Ireland. The Irish Visa Waiver scheme, launched in July 2011, has helped our numbers from long-haul markets. All of these factors, along with good value for money, have helped to drive increased visitor numbers.”

The figures released today provide details of the overseas visits for the October to December period of 2013. Comparing the final quarter of 2013 with the same period in 2012:

• North America was up by 11%;
• Visits from the rest of the world increased by 20%;
• Great Britain was up by 12.5%.
• Overall trips to Ireland were up by 9.9%;
• Visits from Mainland Europe were up by 4.4%.

Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring added: “While the figures for 2013 were excellent, we know we cannot rest on our laurels. That is why we have a number of initiatives this year to ensure that the upward momentum is maintained. We will soon launch Ireland’s first long-distance touring route, the Wild Atlantic Way, stretching for 2,500 kms, all the way from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal to Kinsale in Co. Cork. This new route is set to become one of the great driving routes of the world. It will also be a year of major events like the ‘Big Start’ of the Giro D’Italia, and the Croke Park Classic American Football game. We are confident that we can build on the success of the Gathering and continue to achieve growth in visitor numbers and revenue in 2014.”

The figures show that overseas visitor numbers to Ireland increased by +9.9% for the October-December 2013 period. Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, welcomed the figures, saying: “Today’s figures from the CSO show a strong finish to 2013 – with growth of almost +10% in overseas visitors to Ireland for the final quarter, over the same period in 2012. I am delighted to see growth from all of our market areas around the world; and I am particularly pleased to see strong growth in British visitor numbers (+12.5% for the three-month period). 2013 was a record year for visitor numbers from North America (+14% for the final quarter), France, Germany and Spain, as well as from our long-haul markets (+15%), with Australia and New Zealand in particular driving that growth. As we look now to the year ahead, we aim to keep the momentum going and build on the success of 2013. This year, we will place a major focus on promoting the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on major events like Limerick City of Culture, the ‘Grande Partenza’ of the Giro d’Italia and the Croke Park Classic, when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener. We will also build on the legacy of The Gathering, continuing to reach out to the Diaspora across the world.”

Shaun Quinn CEO of Failte Ireland said: “Today’s figures are welcome news. With €100 million invested in Fáilte Ireland initiatives in recent years, including the new Wild Atlantic Way, and an overall increase in overseas visitors anticipated throughout 2014, tourism is well placed to deliver additional revenue and employment throughout the year. As one of Ireland’s largest indigenous industries, tourism has a spring in its step once more and is poised to play a pivotal role in the continuing national recovery.”