A SHARP drop in tourism figures, with some 4,250 fewer tourists visiting our shores every day, has prompted calls for the excessive costs of holidaying in Ireland to be tackled.
Figures show some 641,400 fewer visitors came to Ireland in the first five months of 2010 compared to last year.
Tourism chiefs need to shake up their marketing plans while the Government’s departure tax needs to be axed to boost falling visitor numbers, it was claimed yesterday.
Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) yesterday show that trips to Ireland by overseas residents plummeted by nearly a quarter in May this year compared to last year.
The traditional beginning of the summer tourism season saw 502,500 visitors compared to 657,000 in the same month last year.
The biggest fall-off in visitors was from Britain (30%), followed by other parts of Europe (19.8%) and North America (16.7%).
Fine Gael Tourism spokesman Jimmy Deenihan said: “As more and more and more tourists stay away, it is no exaggeration to say that Irish tourism is tumbling into a void from which it is difficult to emerge. Today’s CSO overseas travel figures confirm that the sector is in crisis.”
The huge drop of more than 91,000 British visitors coming to Ireland was disturbing, said the deputy.
Overall the figures showed a fall of 24% in visitors for the year up until May.
Tourism chiefs yesterday blamed the dramatic fall-off in visitors on the volcanic ash bloom that descended over Europe from Iceland.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland added, however: “It is important to remember that more than 50% of holidaymakers to the island of Ireland arrive between July and December and right now Tourism Ireland and industry partners are out in all our major markets fighting for business, capitalising on the later-than-ever booking trend.”
Tourism promoters have just begun a new €1 million campaign for Dublin “Europe’s friendliest city” in Britain, which will run into the autumn, he said.
“Our top priority remains the restoration of growth from Great Britain and other markets and all our energies are focused on that goal,” added Mr Gibbons.
Other CSO figures released yesterday showed the Irish are still keen to holiday abroad.
Despite the recession and travel disruptions in May, Irish trips overseas only fell by 29,400 during the month.
Irish residents made some 580,900 trips abroad in the month, a fall of just 4.8% compared to the last year.
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