Minister of State Michael Ring is enjoying a sunny tenure in his tourism portfolio.
Just a few days after leading off the troops in a large-scale battle reenactment festival in Ballina while in the west of the county, his hometown was bathed in glorious sunshine for the Westport Festival of Food and Music, he announced that overseas visitors to Ireland have hit an eight-year high.
The number of people visiting from overseas has even topped last year’s figures for The Gathering, according to the latest report released by the Central Statistics Office.
The new figures show continued growth so far this year with overall trips to Ireland in the first five months of the year up 9.2 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Visits from mainland Europe grew by four per cent between January and May 2014 while visits from North America registered an increase of eight per cent.
Visits from Great Britain were up by 13.1 per cent and visits from the rest of the world, mostly long-haul and developing markets, totalled over 153,000 for the first five months of 2014 - an increase of 16.3 per cent.
“I’m really encouraged by the strong start to the year as we head into the crucial peak season,” said Ring. “More than 20 new flights into Ireland have been launched since the Government reduced the Air Travel Tax to €0 from April, and this is already reflected in the increased number of overseas visitors.
“Today’s figures reflect an excellent performance for overseas visit numbers in the year to May 2014, with our best results for this period since 2008.
“Our main tourist season is now in full swing and the Government is supporting and promoting attractions, festivals, and exciting events around the country.
“Whether it’s a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way or attending the Achill Seafood Festival, the European Juggling Convention in Millstreet, or an air show in Foynes, there really is certainly something for all tastes,” he added.
Shaun Quinn, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, also welcomed the report but warned against complacency in the sector.
“We in Fáilte Ireland are working with the industry to ensure that we keep a focus on those areas which we believe will further grow visitor numbers and we are confident that if the sector continues to maintain the current balance of quality and value which it provides that we can sustain further growth.”