DUBLIN, Ireland – Overseas revenue in the tourism trade rose for the first time last year since the recession started, Fáilte Ireland has stated.
Some €100 million more was spent by overseas tourists, the first time since 2008 that such a rise was recorded.
Visitor numbers were up from the United States and mainland European markets, but the British market continues to decline.
The British market is now half the size it was ten years ago with British tourists opting for other destinations at home and more abroad.
A million visitors have been lost from Britain in the last five years and getting some of them back will be part of the GB Path to Growth strategy being implemented this year by Fáilte Ireland.
Some 6.3 million overseas visitors came to Ireland last year, the same as the year before, but revenues increased to €4 billion, up by 2 per cent.
Visitor numbers from North America and Europe were both up by 2 per cent and there was a strong performance in long haul markets which were up by 5 per cent to 370,000 visitors.
However, this was offset by a 3 per cent decrease in the British market which accounts for 40 per cent of all visitors to Ireland.
Because British visitors tend to come for short trips, there was only a small decline revenue from that source.
Fáilte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn said confidence in the tourism industry was returning and employment numbers were up by 5 per cent to 185,000.
He said The Gathering had added to the optimism for the coming year with some 2,500 events already organised.
“Optimism in the industry has never been higher,” he said, “inquiries from some of the key markets are very strong. Air access looks very good, up 20 per cent from the United States. There’s a very strong feel-good factor for the coming year,” he said.
The tourism sentiment index is higher than it was at the height of the boom in 2007.
He said there was now a “three speed recovery” in Ireland with Dublin performing particularly well while other urban areas are doing well, but rural areas are struggling.
The hotel sector is performing the strongest with yield and occupancy both up. More than half (54 per cent) of the hotels who responded to the December Tourism Barometer reported increased profitability in 2012 and nearly half (45 per cent) stated that their average room yield was up compared to the previous year.
He described the British market as an “extremely tough market” because of the prevalence of austerity in the UK.
The domestic market is “holding up” he added with some nine million trips being made in Ireland by Irish people, but the spend is down, he said.