Ross calls for "substantial" increase in funds for tourism sector

The latest figures show another rise in the number of tourists visiting Ireland

Ross calls for "substantial" increase in funds for tourism sector

Joan O’Shaughnessy, Chairman of Tourism Ireland; Tourism Minister Shane Ross and Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland at the mid-year review of overseas tourism, 09-07-2017. Image: Iain White/ Fennell Photography

The Minister for Tourism has indicated he will look for a “substantial” increase in funds for the tourism sector in the budget.

It comes as the latest figures show that the number of tourists visiting Ireland is up despite the ongoing effects of Brexit.

The Central Statistics Office figures show that there was an increase of 22% in visitors from the North American Market and an increase of 6% from mainland Europe – while visitors from Australia and other emerging markets rose by 6%.

Overall 182,000 more tourists came to Ireland this year than last year.

However, there has been a 6.4% decrease in visitors from Britain so far this year.

The decrease is likely to a see a fall-off of more than 100,000 visitors from what remains Ireland’s largest market.

Marketing budget

Announcing the figures this afternoon, Transport Minister Shane Ross said tourism agencies will need increased marketing funds to deal with the fall off in British visitors.

“[Funding] has increased slightly over the years,” he said. “It is not at the sort of level which Tourism Ireland and the other tourism agencies would like.”

“My Department officials are currently talking to DPER (the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) about this and we will be looking for increased marketing money.

“We will be looking for substantial amounts - particularly in light of what happened with Brexit and the British tourism [numbers] coming down.”

The Minister also ruled out scrapping the 9% VAT rate for tourism.

British drop-off

Tourism Ireland said the UK visitor figures are worrying – especially as more British people are travelling abroad than ever before.

Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said it is crucial that Ireland remains competitive in attracting British visitors.

“In the first five months of the year, the British travellers have confounded expectations,” he said. “The number of British people travelling abroad has actually increased.”

“Certainly the British are still travelling abroad and you know Brexit will come and Brexit will go and the travel industry will continue to expand.

“I think competiveness is going to be absolutely key here – but Ireland was always the one that was going to be hit hardest because we are nearest to the UK and more dependent on it than most other European countries.

The overall boost in numbers has been partly credited to big budget productions including Game of Thrones and Star Wars, which were partly filmed in Ireland and showcase the scenic beauty of the country.