Tourism from the US has become the embattled industry’s billion-dollar baby as record numbers of American visitors make Ireland their priority destination.
In a welcome turnaround for the tourism sector, trips by visitors from North America jumped 20.5% in the early summer months compared to the same period last year.
The increase comes on top of growth in visitor numbers from Britain, the rest of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand which, when combined, have pushed business in the May-July period up 7.6% year-on-year.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of State overseas marketing agency Tourism Ireland, said the numbers coming from North America were likely to exceed all previous records, even those achieved during the boom.
“Tourism Ireland believes that we are on course to achieve our best year ever from the United States — even surpassing the previous best year of 2007,” said Mr Gibbons.
“This year we will welcome over one million American visitors, spending about $1bn [€756m].”
Tourism data just out shows visitors from North America to Ireland up +20.5% in the quarter to July. Stellar performance.— Niall Gibbons (@NiallGibbons) August 30, 2013
Looks like 2013 will be a record tourism year from North America. 1million+ visitors spending $1billion+ . Good for employment.— Niall Gibbons (@NiallGibbons) August 30, 2013
Much of the credit for the improved performance, revealed in figures released yesterday by the CSO, is being given to The Gathering initiative.
“It is quite clear that the Gathering is providing tourism with the jump-start we always imagined it would and our North American and European markets are bouncing back,” said Shaun Quinn, chief executive of Fáilte Ireland, which provides supports to tourism operators.
“The increase in American visitors is particularly welcome, as they stay longer and spend more — which is good for the tourism sector, local businesses, and the national economy.”
Tourism Minister Michael Ring said the figures were very encouraging for the industry and he paid tribute to the voluntary effort behind The Gathering.
“I would like to thank the thousands of volunteers throughout the country who have organised and helped out with Gathering events and brought a great sense of community and pride back to parishes and towns,” said Mr Ring.
“Visitors from overseas are enjoying their holiday experience here in Ireland with many promising to return again in the future.”
Just over 2m trips were made by overseas visitors to Ireland in May, June, and July, an increase of almost 147,000 on the same three months in 2012.
Visitors from Britain were up 3.3% on the same period, the rest of Europe up 5.1%, and from the long-haul markets, there was an 11.9% increase.
The figures do not represent just a summer blip, as total figures for the first seven months of the year to July were up 6% year-on- year.
Mr Gibbons said the emphasis now must be on keeping the momentumgoing, adding that an autumn promotional campaign would be getting under way aimed at boosting late-season travel to Ireland.
“The period September to December traditionally yields as much as 30% of overseas tourism business,” he said.
Meanwhile, trips abroad by Irish residents were also up from May to July, increasing by 3.2% on the same period last year.
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