Overseas visits down, figures show
Overseas visits to Ireland were down more than 20% in the first half of this year, new figures have revealed.
The country played host to more than 2.6 million foreign visitors between January and June, with a drop of around a quarter in tourist trips from the UK and other parts of Europe.
The Central Statistics Office research shows visits from US holidaymakers also slumped by 10% to just over 400,000.
Meanwhile, visits by Irish people to foreign countries were down by almost one tenth.
Irish travellers embarked on more than three million journeys abroad in the first six months of the year, making 657,000 trips in June alone.
Ireland welcomed more than 600,000 visitors from overseas in June - down almost 6% on last year.
The drop in numbers visiting from the UK showed signs of slowing down this summer, however, with a decrease of 3% compared with the previous June's fall of almost one fifth.
Tourism minister Mary Hanafin admitted the first half of the year had been one of the most challenging periods in recent times for Irish travel firms. But she insisted the signs of stabilisation in figures for UK visitors should give the sector confidence.
"Feedback from the industry is that we are experiencing a better than expected domestic tourism season, which is offsetting some of the drop in the past six months in overseas tourism numbers," she said. "There has never been a better time to visit Ireland, both in terms of the value for money on the ground and the quality of our tourism offering."
Ms Hanafin said tourism agencies are continuing to fight for all the business they can find. "I will also be meeting with other industry representatives in the coming weeks to assess the current state of the Irish tourism sector and discuss future priorities," she added.