Irish Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Minister Michael Ring, TD, has welcomed new Central Statistics Office figures showing continued growth in overseas visits so far this year, with 2014 doing even better than last year which was the year of “The Gathering.”

The US leads the way for the first five months with a healthy eight percent increase in numbers which comes off record figures last year for The Gathering.

“Today’s figures reflect an excellent performance for overseas visit numbers in the year to May 2014, with our best results for this period since 2008. Figures from Great Britain are particularly encouraging with an increase of 140,000 visitors over the same period compared to The Gathering year of 2013. Last year we recorded our highest ever number of visits from North America and we have managed a further 8% increase for the first five months on 2014. These numbers should receive a further boost later this Summer when Penn State will meet the University of Central Florida in the “Croke Park Classic” American Football game attracting up to  15,000 additional American visitors.” 

“I’m really encouraged by the strong start to the year as we head into the crucial peak season. More than 20 new flights into Ireland have been launched since the Government reduced the Air Travel Tax to €0 from April, and  this is already reflected in the increased number of overseas visitors.”

The latest CSO figures on Overseas Travel show:

  • At almost 2.7 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 9.2% in the first five months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.
  • Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 4% for January to May 2014, to over 954,000 visits;
  • North America registered an increase of 8% for January – May 2014 (over 398,000 visits);
  • Visits from Great Britain were up by 13.1% for January – May 2014 (1.21 million visits).
  • Visits from the rest of the world, mostly long-haul and developing markets, totaled over 153,000 for the first five months of 2014 (+16.3%).

“Our main tourist season is now in full swing and the Government is supporting and promoting attractions, festivals and exciting events around the country.  Whether it’s a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way or attending the Achill Seafood Festival, the European Juggling Convention in Millstreet, or an Air Show in Foynes, there really is certainly something for all tastes,” he added.

Minister Ring cautioned against becoming complacent, stressing the need for the tourism industry to continue to offer good value for money so that a positive experience matches visitor expectations and sustains good tourism growth into the future.

Welcoming the figures, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said:

“I am really pleased to see continued growth in overseas visitors to Ireland for the five-month period January to May 2014, with an overall increase of +9% – or 228,000 additional visitors. I particularly welcome the strong increase in British visitor numbers of +13% (140,000 additional visitors). 2014 is also set to be another record year for tourism from North America, with growth of +8% (30,000 additional visitors) recorded for the first five months of this year. And it is very encouraging to see growth from other important tourism markets – including Germany, Spain, the Nordic region and our long-haul markets. This reflects the sentiment expressed by our industry partners, including carriers and tour operators overseas, as well as tourism enterprises here at home. We are determined to ensure that tourism growth continues. We are undertaking an extensive program of promotions around the world throughout 2014, to build on the success of 2013. This year, we are placing a major focus on promoting the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on major events like Limerick City of Culture and the Croke Park Classic, when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener, on 30 August.”

Shaun Quinn, CEO of Fáilte Ireland welcomed today’s figures, emphasizing:

“Today’s data chimes with the optimism currently pervading the tourism industry but we cannot be complacent. We in Fáilte Ireland are working with the industry to ensure that we keep a focus on those areas which we believe will further grow visitor numbers and we are confident that if the sector continues to maintain the current balance of quality and value which it provides that we can sustain further growth.

“What is good for tourism is good for Ireland. Tourism can provide economic growth, revenue and jobs with a spatial and regional spread unlike most other sectors. It provides employment in areas where foreign direct investment can’t. We in Fáilte Ireland will be doing our best to ensure that things get even better."