The tourism sector continued to show strong signs of growth, according to the latest figures release by the Central Statistics Office (CSO ) for overseas visits to Ireland for the period December 2013 to February 2014.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring is also predicting a further boost to the sector after the travel tax falls to zero next week.
The number of visits to Ireland for the period December 2013 to February 2014 increased by 11.3 per cent compared to the corresponding period 12 months ago.
Minister Ring said that, in terms of overseas visitors, the figures suggest that the positive momentum generated by The Gathering in 2013 is being maintained into 2014.
“I was particularly pleased with the strong numbers from our most important markets like Great Britain, which is up 14.1 per cent, North America, which is up 16.7 per cent, and Germany, which is up 6.3 per cent,” he said. “Fortunately, trade and industry sentiment in relation to 2014 is generally positive and I am confident that we can achieve our target of growing overseas visits by another four per cent this year.”
He continued: “While this growth in visit numbers is welcome, we still have to fight hard for Ireland’s share of global tourism spend. St Patrick’s Day traditionally marks the start of our overseas marketing efforts and the ‘Greening’ of overseas and domestic landmarks was again very successful in terms of generating positive publicity for Ireland.
“Of course next week sees the reduction in the air travel tax to zero coming into effect. This initiative has already resulted in a number of carriers adding new routes into Ireland and will also help in terms of our competitiveness as a tourist destination.”
Minister Ring added that it was always going to be a challenge to follow the success of The Gathering, but initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way, which he launched recently, can help Ireland to continue to grow its tourism numbers.
“It has massive potential to bring more visitors and more jobs to rural communities right along the western seaboard,” he said. “In addition, Fáilte Ireland will be holding the annual Meitheal event in the coming fortnight which will provide an opportunity for Irish tourism providers to meet overseas tour operators with a view to bringing future tourism business to Ireland.”