Strong tourism trend fuels optimism for summer season as visitor numbers rise – Varadkar

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14,000 more employed in accommodation & food in last 12 months

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar TD has welcomed the latest CSO figures for overseas visits to Ireland which show that visitor numbers grew by 7.5% in the period from February to April when compared to the corresponding period of 2013, with 14,000 extra people employed in the accommodation and food sector in the last year.

The figures show that there were 1.6 million overseas visits to Ireland during the three month period to the end of April.

“I’m delighted to see these strong figures, which are very encouraging as we enter the peak tourism season. Our marketing of Ireland overseas for 2014 is progressing well, and the recent very successful visit of the Giro D’Italia cycle race has provided us with a major publicity boost. Since the Government came to office, the number of international visitors coming to Ireland has increased by more than a million,” Minister Varadkar said.

“The Government’s efforts to make tourism a central part of our economic recovery continue to bear fruit. In addition, the strong overseas figures are helping to grow employment in the tourism sector as evidenced by another release from the CSO. The Quarterly National Household Survey figures indicate that employment in the ‘accommodation and food service activities’ sector was 136,400 for the first quarter of 2014, on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared with 122,400 in the same period last year, a rise of 11.4%,” he added.

Comparing the 3-month period from February-April 2014 with the same period in 2013:
• Overall trips to Ireland were up by 7.5%;
• Great Britain was up by 15.2%;
• Mainland Europe was up by 3.1% with Germany (up 16.9%) and Spain (up 11.3%) performing particularly well;
• North America was down by 4.6%;
• Visits from the rest of the world increased by 7.0%.

The figures show very strong growth of 15.2% from Great Britain which remains the most important market in terms of visit numbers. Prospects for the North American market are strong as the peak summer season approaches, with carriers and tour operators reporting growth in bookings and a further increase in the level of available air capacity. The 4.6% reduction in visitors from North America should be viewed in the context of 2013 witnessing the highest ever number of visitors from that region.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring TD added: “The figures indicate that Ireland continues to grow in popularity as a visitor destination. A key aspect of our tourism offering is the wide variety of festivals and events taking place throughout the year. I recently announced funding of over €0.5 million for 175 events throughout the country. These festivals generate additional tourist bednights and make cities, towns and villages all over Ireland memorable and enjoyable places to visit.”

Welcoming the figures, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to see continued growth in overseas visitor numbers to Ireland for the three-month period February to April 2014, with an overall increase of +7.5%. I particularly welcome the strong increase in British visitor numbers of +15%. It is also very encouraging to see growth from other important tourism markets – including Germany (+17%), Spain (+11%), the Nordic region (+4%) and our long-haul markets (+7%). This reflects the sentiment expressed by our tourism industry partners, including tour operators and carriers, as well as tourism businesses here at home. We are undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world throughout 2014, to build on the success of 2013. This year, we are placing a major focus on promoting the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on major events like Limerick City of Culture and the Croke Park Classic, when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener.”

Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn added: “Today’s figures are proof of a continued robust growth in overseas visitors and that’s good news for tourism jobs and revenue. The figures for Great Britain in particular show a remarkable jump in visitors this year and that’s proof that our new strategy to target particular segments of that market is starting to pay dividends. Another factor at play is the improving value for money on offer in Ireland which is now enticing more British visitors and this reinforces the need for the sector to preserve its current blend of quality and good value in order to encourage even more growth.”