Tourism Ireland welcomes growth in overseas visitors; spend by tourists down 4%

Tourism Ireland has welcomed the growth of 6% in overseas visitors to Ireland in the first quarter of the year, from January to March.

Commenting on figures published today by the CSO for overseas visitors to Ireland for the first quarter of 2019, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said:

"Today’s figures from the CSO confirm that overseas visitor numbers grew by +6% in the first three months of 2019.

However, spend is down -4%, with North America the only market area showing revenue growth (+3%).

"Visitor numbers from Mainland Europe and long-haul markets are up – but they spent fewer nights here, so spend by those visitors is down. Holiday visitor numbers increased by +5%, with spend on a par with 2018.

“We are in constant contact with our tourism partners around the country and we know that growth in overseas tourism is not being felt evenly across the industry. Following several years of growth, we are very much aware that this year will be more challenging.

“Britain remains our most challenging market for the peak season.

CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons.
CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons.

"Last week, we launched a new strategy for the British market; we will continue to monitor the market closely, working in conjunction with our British-based Brexit Taskforce," he said.

The Chairperson of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) warned that trading conditions for tourism and hospitality businesses were more challenging this year and there was an onus on Government to improve the competitiveness of Irish tourism.

Speaking at an ITIC event held in Killarney Ruth Andrews, Chairperson of ITIC, stated that the CSO figures confirm industry sentiment on the ground:

“Latest official tourism numbers highlight the impact of increased costs and Brexit uncertainly on tourism businesses throughout the country.”

ITIC has criticized the Government for drift on tourism policy including increased taxation, rising costs of business, inadequate overseas marketing budgets, and confusion over new regulations curbing self-catering tourism accommodation. ITIC estimates that growth in 2019 at 3% will only be half of what official estimates had stated earlier in the year.

Chief Executive of ITIC Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said:

Here in Killarney you get a very good sense for the tourism season and undoubtedly 2019 is looking more challenging. Costs of business have soared in recent times and the tourism and hospitality sector are reporting an average of 28% increase in insurance premiums in the last year alone.

At a time of significant Brexit uncertainty, and a tightening of air services into Ireland, ITIC has called on the Government to prove its commitment to tourism and not lose the opportunity for regional growth.

O’Mara Walsh urged more investment by the Government in tourism “the increase in state funding this year only brings tourism funding back to 2008 levels – that is a long decade of underinvestment.

"If the Government is serious about tourism it must support the sector. Too many jobs are at stake and this is regional Ireland’s biggest employer by some distance," he said.

One in six jobs in Killarney are estimated to be in the tourism and hospitality sector as ITIC held their Council meeting in the Brehon Hotel.

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