Tourists rate Ireland' too expensive'

Ireland’s tourism chiefs today acknowledged that the cost of visiting the country was regarded as too high by many holidaymakers.

Ireland’s tourism chiefs today acknowledged that the cost of visiting the country was regarded as too high by many holidaymakers.

The price factor recognition was signalled at the launch in Dublin of a €30m campaign to market Ireland as a tourism destination both home and abroad.

A 5% increase in overall visitor numbers to 7.5 million next year – and a 5% rise in Northern Ireland – has been targeted by the cross-border Tourism Ireland organisation, together with a 10% rise in visitor revenue.

Speaking at the event, Tourism Ireland chief executive Paul O’Toole acknowledged that tourists were “surprised” at Irish prices.

But he insisted that the industry was confident of increasing visitor numbers and revenue next year – despite the rising prices.

Mr O’Toole commented after Tourism Minister John O’Donoghue warned of the “negative word of mouth” effect that the cost of holidaying in Ireland could have.

He said “People find our prices on the ground a big surprise, I have to say.”

The minister declared: “The truth of the matter is that if we offer value for money to incoming visitors, we will increase our share of the market.”

Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office indicate that the number of people travelling to Ireland for holidays was roughly on a par between April and June with the same period last year, but that earnings were up 6.6%.

An all-out bid will be made in 2003 to boost the North American market – still suffering from the consequences of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September last year – despite the threat of war with Iraq and the potential fall out from such a development.

The group is spending almost €10m of the marketing budget on the North American market.

Mr O’Toole said that region was “fantastically important” to Ireland – but admitted that the forecasts for 2003 were based on a “relatively stable” political environment.

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