I’m delighted to welcome the latest tourism figures from the CSO, which must be seen as a vindication of the strategy being adopted by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and all of the tourism authorities. Tourism numbers from March to May of this year show that the number of visitors coming here from emerging markets, like China and India, are up by 3.2%, which is the strongest performance ever from these areas.
These are fantastic results and it’s particularly encouraging that there’s been a rise in visitors coming from emerging markets like China and India. We need to expand the appeal of Ireland to people in these countries, and I am confident that we can do that throughout the remainder of 2013 and into 2014.
Two main reasons have contributed to the rise in visitors from emerging markets. Firstly, the Visa Waiver Scheme means that tourists from India and China who are travelling to the UK can now travel on to Ireland without further documentation. This makes Ireland an enticing prospect for an extra few days for those who are travelling to the UK for a holiday. Secondly, the increased capacity and connectivity to the Gulf region, including a 35% increase in capacity on Etihad flights to Dublin, means that people travelling from India and China come to Ireland more easily and economically than before.
Right across the country we have seen every organisation and county take up the approach with gusto of creating events which showcase the best of their areas while not increasing costs. We are racking up spectacular figures from every market; visitors from Europe are up by almost 10%, North American visitors are up by 12.5% and there’s been an encouraging recovery in the UK market. This is despite the fact that the Gathering has a modest budget, which was sourced from within the tourism budget. It has clearly paid off in a big way.
As we are now into the busy summer season, it’s important that we keep in mind that the next few months are vital to Irish tourism. The biggest drawback in previous years, and the reason most often cited for tourists potentially not returning, is that of price. So we need to make sure that tourists and locals alike are getting value for money. If that happens, I am confident that we can continue these gains into 2014 and beyond.