Shop Street: Galway city may not be the biggest city in Ireland but it definitely has the biggest heart.Tourism Ireland

Tourism Ireland's chief executive Niall Gibbons has said that Ireland may be seen as a “safe haven” destination for overseas visitors this year due to security concerns in other parts of Europe. reports that Gibbons outlined the significance of geo-politics during a discussion at Stormont by members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee about issues influencing visitor numbers coming to the island.

"I think the geo-political situation is far more volatile than it was this time six months ago," said Gibbons, giving evidence to Westminster MPs in Belfast.

"We have seen the attacks in Paris and difficult situations in Brussels and North Africa.

"In a strange way what that has done in terms of international tourism trends - since the Arab Spring (2011) started we have seen tourism traffic pushed from North Africa and southern Europe up towards northern European countries. Actually northern European countries have actually made gain shares.

"And what we are possibly likely to see this year is Ireland being seen as a more safe haven type destination.

"Not the basis upon which you want to build your brand, but it is something we do take very seriously so to speak, particularly in markets like North America... We now see 10% of all North Americans traveling to mainland Europe now coming to the island of Ireland, which is a very, very big market share - it's our biggest ever.

"So that geo-political one is one we have to be very conscious of."

During the meeting, MPs heard from a number of witnesses on the tourism sector in Northern Ireland.