The Chinese are coming to Ireland in record numbers providing a major boost for tourism which is showing major signs of recovery.
Due to a new visa waiver scheme that allows Chinese who come to Britain to also visit Ireland on the same trip without a new visa, the numbers have increased dramatically.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s minister for tourism, told the Financial Times that the “visa waiver scheme is attracting a lot of interest and the number of Chinese groups visiting in summer 2011 has doubled on the previous year,”he said.
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Chines tourism operators are also coming to Ireland in increasing numbers setting up package tours for their clients. Dublin and the surrounding areas are especially popular. A large group of tour operators recently visited County Wicklow near Dublin to set up travel links.
The Chinese market is expected to be Ireland’s fastest growing segment over the next few years and direct flights from Beijing are said to also be under discussion.
The news comes as figures published by Tourism Ireland show that overseas visitors to Ireland rose 11 per cent in the year to the end of August 2011. The number of trips came to 4.48 million visitors, the first year on year increase since 2007. The revival is led by a hefty increase in numbers from North America, a vital market for Ireland.
The international community and media is taking note. The Financial Times reported that ‘Tourism Twinkles in the Irish Murk” in a major article today.
The article points out that recovery is coming at just the right time. 83 hotels and golf centres were shuttered because of the recession and over 1,000 pubs have closed .
Costs are coming down rapidly. Hotels.com index now shows that Ireland has the cheapest hotels rooms in Western Europe.
The Irish government has targeted tourism as a key sector to create jobs. It introduced a visa waiver plan to make it easier for non-European tourists to enter the country.
“There is a real recovery but it is a different story in each of our markets,” says Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, adding “Ireland has turned the corner this year all we need is more stability to grow”.