6% rise in summer overseas visitors
More than 100,000 more visitors came to Ireland during the height of the tourist season this year compared with last summer, latest figures reveal.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar claimed the 6% rise in overseas trips to the country signalled a recovery in the industry after the decline in recent years. "These figures are very encouraging," he said. "The Irish tourism industry is on track to record growth in overseas visitors for the first time since 2007."
However, Tourism Ireland has cautioned the trend may not continue, with more worldwide economic uncertainty.
The Central Statistics Office said there were 2,133,800 overseas trips to Ireland between June and August, an overall increase of 123,500 compared with the same period last year.
The number of visitors from North America was up almost 8% to 381,100, while visitors from continental European countries rose more than 6% to 742,600. There was also a 5% increase in travellers from Britain - Ireland's biggest market for tourists - up to 885,800.
Mr Varadkar said the surge in British visitors was particularly encouraging, as it took place against a backdrop of falling overseas trips by people in the UK. The number of visitors to Ireland from all other parts of the world was up more than 12%.
While more people were travelling here, the number of summer trips abroad taken by Irish people has dropped to 2,076,300 - down more than 5% since the same three-month period last year. Last summer also recorded a decrease in overseas travel.
Transport Minister Michael Ring said more Irish people are choosing to holiday at home: "Irish people are enjoying Ireland's own tourism product in greater numbers, including the great deals on offer," he said. "Peak season may be over, but the next few weeks are very important for the tourism sector as we host some of our most exciting festivals and events, including the continuation of the Dublin Festival Season, the Wexford Opera Festival and next weekend's Cork Jazz Festival."
But Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, warned current indications showed growth in the tourism market for the rest of this year could "soften".
"The economic turmoil of recent months has brought increased uncertainty, affecting business and consumer confidence," he said. "Given the scale of the challenges and the ongoing uncertainty facing the global economy right now, travel and tourism looks likely to face a fairly cautious passage into 2012."