Tourism sector targets US to achieve 5% growth
on 30/11/2012 00:00:00
Launching Tourism Ireland's 2013 marketing plan in Dublin yesterday, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar expressed confidence that the tourism sector would achieve its ambitious target of attracting 325,000 additional visitors next year due to the major homecoming initiative, The Gathering.
Mr Varadkar claimed early booking indications for next year were "very positive", though he conceded there were a number of downside risks which could still affect overseas visitor numbers in 2013.
He said he had also secured additional funding of up to €7m next year to support promotion of The Gathering.
Mr Varadkar acknowledged that tourism figures this year were "very mixed" - a reference to a continuing decline in the number of visitors from Britain.
The latest CSO figures show the number of overseas visitors to Ireland rose 1.6% between August and October compared to the same quarter in 2011.
Despite the overall increase, the number of visitors from Britain continued to decline over the past three months - down 4.5% to almost 803,000 - and back to levels last reached in 2001.
The number of Irish people travelling overseas rose by 3.1% to 1.8m during the period.
However, Mr Varadkar said the increase was probably due to weather factors rather than "any increased prosperity".
Asked about concerns on domestic tourism figures due to the economic climate, he said it was clear that areas that had attracted foreign visitors had fared better than other regions in recent years.
Mr Varadkar said there was no doubt increased taxes and cutbacks had dampened spending on holidays by Irish people but he hoped the impact on tourism providers would be counteracted by initiatives to attract more foreign visitors. He said tourism would play a key role in the Government's plans for recovery.
Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons pointed out that higher-spending overseas tourists still accounted for 60% of all tourism revenue.
Mr Gibbons said 2012 was likely to prove one of the best years for visitors from the US and Canada, while capacity on flights to the US was set to increase by a further 20% next summer.
A three-year plan entitled Make Ireland Jump Out will be launched in the US next year with the target of increasing visitors from the US by 20% by 2015.
Mr Gibbons said continental Europe had also overtaken Britain in terms of visitor numbers and revenue.
Tourism Ireland will launch a new, improved website - Ireland.com - in January.