Ireland welcomes more UK tourists
Ireland is welcoming more British tourists but fewer Americans, latest tourism figures have revealed.
During the three months between last November and January, nearly 1.2 million trips were made to Ireland - a rise of 22,800 or 1.9% on the same time the previous year.
A breakdown of the Central Statistics Office figures shows a 4.7% jump in visits from Britain, up to 580,800. There was also a 3% lift in visitors from continental Europe, to 404,400.
However there was a sharp drop in the number of longer journeys to Ireland. Trips from North America were down 5.4% to 141,900 while visitor numbers from elsewhere in the world dropped 9.4% to 68,400.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar described the figures as a welcome start to the year.
"Clearly the picture was mixed, with some markets performing better than others," he said. "A range of factors such as economic confidence, or uncertainty, in many of our source markets is evident in these figures with visits up 16.3% from Germany and down 5.1% from Italy.
"However, it is particularly important that we sustain growth in visits from Great Britain, our largest market for inbound tourism."
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said anecdotal feedback from tour operators and travel contacts overseas was "cautiously optimistic" about improvements in the number of visitors from further afield later in the year.
"Right now, we are preparing to roll out our largest ever St Patrick's Day programme around the world - which will span Great Britain, mainland Europe, North America, Australia, as well as developing markets such as China, India and South Africa," he said.
"Our aim is to bring a smile to the world and to convey the message that Ireland continues to offer a warm welcome, fun and spontaneity, alongside fantastic scenery and cultural activities."