Read more: Killarney continues to charm tourists new survey shows

North American tourism show the smallest drop in visitors to Ireland of all major markets for 2010 it has been revealed by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation.

North American tourists were down by nine per cent while Britian and mainland Europe were both down by 18 per cent.

16%, or over 1 million, fewer overseas visitors came to Ireland  compared with 2009, with total arrivals at an estimated 5.5 million.

That is 2.2 million fewer visitors than came there in the peak year of 2007, a level last seen in 1998.
Ireland’s largest source market Britain accounted for 1.3 million of those lost visitors. Earnings from overseas visitors contracted by one third over the past 3 years, with annual revenue now €1.7 billion less than in 2007.

The domestic market performed reasonably well in all of the circumstances, with just a marginal drop in visits, although domestic revenue is estimated to have fallen by 10% to €1.25 billion.

“Despite the severity of the recent downturn, tourism is still big business”, according to Tom Haughey, Chairman of ITIC, “and in the current year generated revenue of €4.5 billion and supported close to 200,000 jobs.”

The ITIC Chairman says it’s a long road back but that he is confident the journey will commence in 2011, supporting this view with the evidence that an upturn in demand has already been seen in competitor destinations.

Haughey believes that the reduction in the airport departure tax from €10 to €3, coupled with the Dublin Airport Authority  incentive scheme at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports, provides an opportunity to recover some of the air services lost over the past 2 years.

“Recovery in tourism”, Haughey says, “will have to be driven by growth in overseas visitors as weakness of demand is very likely to be experienced in the domestic market over the next couple of years.”

The main reason cited for optimism is the improvement in the value of Ireland’s offering in the marketplace as prices drop substantially, followed by the buoyancy of the US market and economic recovery in the principal mainland European markets. A more favourable exchange rate environment in Ireland’s two largest markets, Britain and the United States, is also expected to deliver conditions more favourable to growth.

Almost 3 out of 4 businesses surveyed are of the view that the current banking and economic crisis have damaged Ireland’s image. This is undermining confidence of overseas suppliers of business to Ireland as well as damaging consumer perceptions, according to the ITIC survey.

Read more: Killarney continues to charm tourists new survey shows