OUR tourism sector has suffered one of its worst periods in a decade, with the number of people travelling to this country plummeting by more than 800,000 in a year.
Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that between January and October alone Irish hotels and tourist attractions witnessed the massive 800,000 drop in foreign visitors.
While 6.8 million people travelled to Ireland for holidays, short visits, and work- related journeys between January and October 2008, during the same period this year the number of people arriving fell to just over six million.
The figure includes a massive 16.7% drop in October 2009 compared with the same month the previous year. October saw the lowest level of inward travel to Ireland since 2004.
According to the CSO, the number of people arriving in this country from Britain fell by 14.6% between October 2008 and October 2009, by 276,600, with journeys from other European countries down almost 23%, by 177,800.
Trips from North America also dropped by 6.9% during the period, to 71,500, further impacting on the Irish economy.
Irish tourists also made fewer journeys abroad. Britain proved to be the most popular destination, accounting for 3.8 million of the 7.8 million overseas trips made by Irish people between January and October this year.
While the figures will lead to further concerns over the immediate future of a series of Irish holiday destinations, Tourism Ireland has insisted that similar difficulties are being felt in other countries.
“Many international destinations have experienced significant declines and the island of Ireland has been no exception, with an expected decline of 12% in visitor numbers by year end.
“Despite this, we anticipate that 7.6 million people will have visited the island of Ireland from overseas in 2009, generating approximately €3.7 billion in revenue,” said the group’s chief executive Niall Gibbons.
He said Tourism Ireland will attempt to increase visitor numbers by 3% in 2010, the equivalent of an extra 230,000 people coming to this country next year.
Among those the group has asked to help with the publicity campaigns are controversial pop duo Jedward, who were referenced during recent radio commercials in Britain.
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