Ireland needs to work harder on attracting tourists.

That's the sobering news from Ireland's Central Statistics Office which says tourism numbers are down by a whopping 911,500 people.

The overall total of 6,927,500 overseas visitors is the lowest since 2005 and is an 11.6 percent drop on the 2008 numbers.

UK visitors made up the bulk of the drop in visitor numbers, UK visitors fell by 615,400 (15.9%). North American visitors dropped by just 24,200, while visitors from European countries fell by 228,000.

On another note, Irish residents travelled less overseas, in 2009 oversea visits dropped 10%, from 7,877,400 to 7,049,300.

Tourism Ireland's chief executive Niall Gibbons said last year "was one of the toughest years for tourism."

Gibbons hopes that tourist numbers will grow by 3% this year. Gibbons pointed out that the Discover Ireland website recorded a massive 13 million hits last year. Gibbons still believes tourists are interested in travelling to Ireland.

There are several reasons why tourism has declined in Ireland, the primary reason will be attributed to the credit crunch.

However Ireland has an airport departure tax of $13 per flight.  The tax was introduced by the Irish government last year, as a means to raise money to alleviate a massive national debt.