New figures show steep drop in number of UK visitors to Ireland

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation says the sector needs to be 'Brexit proofed'

New figures show steep drop in number of UK visitors to Ireland

Long queues into see the Book of Kells in Trinity College Dublin in 2015 | Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show there is an overall increase of visitors to Ireland.

However, there is continued concern in the the decline of visitor numbers from Britain.

Some 6,714,600 overseas visitors came here from January to August this year.

This represents growth of 2.5% - or 161,800 additional visitors - on the same eight-month period last year.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, says: "North America and our long-haul markets continue to perform very well.

"Arrivals from North America are up 17.9% for January to August; and visitors from Australia and Developing Markets grew by 16.9% in the same period.

"Arrivals from Mainland Europe also grew by 3.2%. Increases in direct air access, plus our market diversification strategy, have been key factors."

UK decline

While the number of British visitors coming here fell 7.1% for the January to August period.

Tourism Ireland says the fall in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors.

The tourism body says it has placed a greater focus on a ‘culturally curious’ audience, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations.

But it says competitiveness and the value for money message are "more important than ever in Britain right now."

"Tourism Ireland’s extensive autumn campaign is in full swing, to promote late season holidays and boost travel into the early part of 2018".

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) has said the figures are a reminder that the Brexit impact on Irish tourism is "real and material".

It is asking the Government to introduce urgent measures in Budget 2018 to slow the decline in British tourists.

Eoghan O'Mara-Walsh, CEO of ITIC, said: "Today’s figures are a stark warning to the Government that our tourism industry is already being hit by Brexit and unless something is done the number of visitors coming to our country from our largest market will continue to decline.

"Tourism is Ireland's largest indigenous industry employing 228,000 people nationwide and our UK tourists are vital as they visit all year and travel throughout the country.

"The Government must introduce new measures in the upcoming Budget that will both defend the UK market and help diversify into new markets".

The group has called for a €20m investment fund to help 'Brexit proof' the sector.