Figures published today by the CSO for overseas visitors to Ireland saw an increase of almost 4% over the last year.
The figures confirm a record-breaking year for overseas tourism to Ireland as the country welcomed an additional 347,700 visitors onto the 10 million people who arrived here in 2016.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “We’ve seen exceptional results from North America in 2017 – more than 2.1 million visitors, up over +16% on 2016.
“Ireland now welcomes 10% of all American visitors to Europe – particularly noteworthy given the intense competition from other destinations. We have also seen record numbers arriving here from Australia and developing markets (almost +13%); and from Mainland Europe (+5%), with important markets like Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Nordic Region all recording really good growth. Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors.”
Despite the positive figures increase in visitors, a new Fáilte Ireland food and drink strategy which aims to change overseas visitor perceptions of Irish food and drink has been launched.
According to Paul Keeley, Director of Commercial Development at Fáilte Ireland, the Irish tourism industry needs to work towards changing the perception amongst overseas visitors to reposition Irish food and drink as one of the main reasons to visit Ireland.
Mr Keeley said that the vast majority of overseas visitors are positively surprised and satisfied by the overall quality of Ireland’s food and drink offering, but prior to coming, their expectations of Irish food and drink are lower.
“Food and drink consumption is an intrinsic part of the tourist experience. Quality experiences are now a major contributor to increasing holiday satisfaction, creating positive memories and driving advocacy. Amongst those deciding on a holiday location, the expectation of good food is nearly as important as hospitality.
“We undoubtedly have the product and expertise, we have natural produce, fresh ingredients, and great fish and meat but we need to ensure that our food and drink offering gains a global reputation that matches the reality on the ground,” he said.
According to the Food and Drink Strategy 2018 – 2023 report, the food industry could help grow Irish tourism revenue by as much as €400 million over the next five years.
In 2017, revenue from overseas visitors totalled €6.5bn with approximately a third - about €2 billion – spent on food and drink.