TRIPS to Ireland have increased by more than 8% in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.
However, Irish trips abroad are down by almost 12%.
From January to March, 92,800 extra overseas visitors came to Ireland than in the first quarter of 2010.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said the increase is very promising.
“These figures show the first early signs of recovery in Ireland’s vital tourism industry,” Mr Varadkar said.
“I don’t think anything could compare with the positive images of Ireland broadcast around the world in recent days. I’m confident that growth will continue for the rest of the year.”
Britain, Canada and the US had the largest increase in visitors to Ireland. So far this year almost 718,000 visitors from these countries arrived on Irish shores, up 54,000 on last year.
Irish Tourism agencies also welcomed the upturn.
Fáilte Ireland chief executive Sean Quinn said: “Today’s news will give the tourism sector a great boost as it heads into the high season. Fáilte Ireland will be working closely with tourism businesses around the country and playing its part to ensure that we maximise the benefits from any upswing in numbers.”
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, believes the best is yet to come. “This is a very positive development and we’re well ahead of our expectations. We’ve been doing a lot of promotional work in the market place and now heading into the second quarter, demand appears to be strong,” he said.
In 2010 the value of the spend by visitors to Ireland was in excess of €3 billion.
Mr Gibbons is hopeful this will increase as the year continues.
“North America, in particular, are the biggest spenders. Their increase of almost 12% means they are close to their peak number.”
Irish trips abroad declined by almost 12%, the third year in a row that numbers have decreased.
The news came as Discover Ireland launched a €1 million promotional campaign to encourage holiday-makers to stay in Ireland this summer.
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