More than 50,000 Chinese tourists are due to visit Ireland during 2016

Tourism Ireland is expecting double-digit growth...

More than 50,000 Chinese tourists are due to visit Ireland during 2016

Niall Carson / PA

The number of Chinese tourists to Ireland is likely to grow by more than 10% in the current year to pass the 50,000 mark, according to the chief executive of Tourism Ireland, Niall Gibbons.

Speaking in Beijing, he confirmed that visitor numbers from China to Ireland had climbed by 18% in 2015 to 45,000.

Tourism numbers from China have increased significantly since 2014 when a common British-Irish visa scheme was launched according to Tourism Ireland.

Mr Gibbons has stressed the importance of direct flights from either from Beijing or Shanghai to Ireland to boost tourism - "A direct flight into Ireland from China is absolutely essential ... and we hope to see that be beneficial in the short-term, not the medium term," he said.

He has been accompanied to China by Jon Woolf, senior vice-president of aviation business development at Dublin Airport, who will hold meetings with Chinese aviation officials.

The Tourism Ireland boss commented on the effect of the new visa arrangement, "We have to let the Chinese visitors know how this scheme works ... and we know that applications are up 10% this year. We feel we can do much better and make it as easy as possible for people to get into Ireland," he said.

The Irish Times reports that there has been a 38% increase in Chinese visitors to the Guinness Storehouse and that 2016 has enjoyed double-digit growth to date.

While Belfast's Titanic experience enjoyed a 28% increase in visitors from China last year.