Tourism Ireland’s end of year review revealed that after some lean years during the downturn, Ireland’s tourism sector continues to go from strength to strength.
The last year was the strongest on record in terms of visitors numbers and revenue, with 10.6m tourists bringing in almost €5.8bn in revenue.
Growth was recorded in all the main markets around the world, with the exception of the UK — with record numbers arriving from north America, mainland Europe, Australia and developing markets.
Tourism Ireland is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (almost 4.1m fans), number four on Twitter (457,000 followers) and number three on YouTube (40.8m views).
By year-end, Tourism Ireland’s international website, www.ireland.com, will have attracted around 19.3m visitors.
Access to Ireland for tourists also improved dramatically over the year, with the introduction of new routes introduced by a range of carriers.
These included a Qatar Airways service between Doha and Dublin; an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin from Miami, as well as expanded services on Aer Lingus flights from Los Angeles, Chicago and Orlando.
There were more than 550,000 direct, one-way airline seats to the island of Ireland available during summer 2017 — a record and a 4% increase in capacity over summer 2016.
Next year will also see a host of new routes come on stream. These include a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Dublin — Ireland’s first ever direct flight from the Asia-Pacific region; new Aer Lingus flights from Seattle and Philadelphia; Air Canada services between Toronto and Shannon and between Montreal and Dublin and increased Ryanair services from Germany.
Irish Ferries will introduce its new ferry, the WB Yeats, in July which will mean double the number of sailings between France and Ireland, with daily departures in alternate directions.
CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said once again Ireland’s unique offerings continue to draw in record numbers of visitors from all over the world.
“Throughout 2017, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. A major focus of our activity was Ireland’s Ancient East, Dublin, the Wild Atlantic Way and Northern Ireland; other important themes have included screen tourism and, in particular, Game of Thrones,” he said.
Mr Gibbons said the target for 2018 was to develop overseas tourism revenue by 5% to €6bn for the economies north and south.
“We are heading into 2018 in a position of some strength, based on the success of 2017.
“Over the coming weeks and months, Tourism Ireland will once again leverage the huge global popularity of Star Wars for Irish tourism.
“We will launch the first phase of our new Star Wars campaign next week, targeting fans of the science fiction franchise everywhere.
“In 2018, Tourism Ireland will create ‘stand out’ for the island of Ireland around the world, highlighting iconic experiences like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route.
“We will also promote Dublin and Belfast, in particular for ‘shoulder’ and off-peak travel,” he said.