Number of overseas visitors down 1.2% in first quarter

Number of overseas visitors down 1.2% in first quarter

The number of overseas visitors coming to Ireland fell slightly in the first quarter of the year.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show there was a 1.2% drop to 1,165,100 in the number of trips to Ireland between January and March.

The greatest regional drop was from north America, where the number of trips fell 6.5% to 144,700.

However, visitors from Britain increased by 2.1% to 562,400.

The number of trips from Ireland overseas dropped 1.9% to 2,399,900 when compared with the same period 12 months earlier.

Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said he is confident 2012 will be positive for Irish tourism, in spite of the challenging start to the year.

"It is encouraging that the number of visits from our most important market, Great Britain, continues to grow," Mnister Varadkar said.

"However, the figures demonstrate the challenges we continue to face to build on the return to growth in 2011, given economic uncertainties in many key markets and upward trends in the price of oil’.

Chief executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said the results for the first quarter of 2012 were in line with expectations.

"The global economic landscape of recent months has certainly presented a challenging environment for travel and tourism and that is reflected in the CSO figures which show a drop of -1% for that three-month period," Mr Gibbons said.

"However, our tourism industry and travel trade partners are generally more positive about the months ahead – particularly for quarters two and three – with reports of enquiries and advance bookings being well up on this time last year."

Mr Gibbons said tourism is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, contributing almost 4% of GNP and providing employment for over 200,000 people.

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