Irish tourists' Spanish love affair continues

It faces competition, however, from the US...

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People sunbathe at the Barceloneta beach in Barcelona. Image: Manu Fernandez / AP/Press Association Images

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has revealed that Spain remains the number one destination for Irish holidaymakers.

Some 1.8 million Irish tourists travelled to Spain last year.

The Holiday World Show opens in the RDS in Dublin this afternoon, with 1,000 travel professionals taking part in the day-day event.

Outside of Spain, ITAA president Cormac Meehan said of the places and activities captivating the Irish:

"The second-ranking destination is the US. Places like Washington, New York, Boston, right down to sunny Florida, and then across t Pacific Coast, San Francisco...

"They're all very very popular. But what we're seeing is people taking activity breaks. Particularly in the Spanish market and Portugese market, and even the US market. Things like cycling, hill walking and all the special activities that people can engage in."

Busy 2016 for Irish travel

The Irish took 6.3% more overseas trips last year than in 2015, according to new figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Some 7.4 million of us took breaks abroad, with biggest boost seen towards the end of the year. Trips between October and December climbed 10% to 1.7 million. 

We're also welcoming more people to our shores. The total number of trips to Ireland was 9,584,000, up 10.9% on 2015. The number of British visitors was up 10.6% to 3,924,100. There were 8.5% more visitors from other European visitors, and a 19.4% jump in the number of North Americans crossing the Atlantic for a visit.

Michael D Higgins kisses American tourist Mary O'Neil during a walkabout on Grafton Street, Dublin during his presidential election campaign, 2011. Picture by Niall Carson PA Archive/PA Images