The number of trips to the Republic of Ireland from abroad fell by 596,400 to 4.9 million between January and August this year compared to the same period in 2008, it was revealed yesterday.
The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) equate to a 10.9pc decline. Tourist numbers were also down by 13pc in August over the same month last year -- with close to a 25pc drop in the number of UK visits, a 3pc decline in European visits -- and despite a 7.1pc increase in trips here from North Americans.
Over the six months the biggest annual drop was from the UK -- Ireland's largest tourist market -- in which visits fell by 16.2pc to 2.3 million. It followed a decline in visits from other countries excluding Europe and America at more than 14pc. Trips by Europeans dropped by almost 6pc followed by North Americans at nearly 3pc. The number of Irish residents holidaying abroad also dropped by 10.3pc to 4.9 million trips over the same time period last year.
Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons blamed the worldwide recession and volatility in global markets for the sharp decline.
He said: "This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult years the tourism industry in Ireland has ever faced; consumers have cut back dramatically on their holidays and spending and the CSO figures issued today reflect the impact of that on Ireland."
Meanwhile, Failte Ireland is looking to the east in a bid to reverse our flagging number of overseas tourists.
Its tourism industry workshop in Dublin last night was attended by 60 of the top tour operators from China, India, Japan, Israel, the Middle East, and South Africa looking to sell Ireland as a tourism destination next year.
Failte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn said: "These visitors stay twice as long as the average holidaymaker."
Source Irish Independent