|President Obama's recent visit to Ireland has brought global attention to the country as a travel destination. // (c) 2011 Tourism Ireland|
Motivated by recent visits by Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama, Ireland’s Minister for Tourism reported the first growth in overseas visitors in almost three years, with a 12 percent rise in travelers from North America and an overall 8.6 percent growth from overseas markets.
Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said that thee increase in overseas visitors to Ireland in the first three months of 2011 is the first increase seen since July 2008.
“These figures show the first early signs of recovery in Ireland’s vital tourism industry," said Varadkar. "The continued growth in the figures for North America in particular, which saw a rise of 14 percent in Q4 2010 and a further increase of almost another 12 percent for the Q1 2011 report, is evidence that this market remains crucial in terms of revenues generated for Ireland.”
Varadkar continued: “I’m confident that growth will continue for the rest of the year. The last two weeks have seen the highly successful visits of Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Barack Obama. I don’t think anything could compare with the positive images of Ireland broadcast around the world in recent days. I understand that well over 11,000 articles have already appeared in print and online media across the globe.”
Minister Varadkar said tourism is key to Ireland’s economic recovery, and highlighted the measures in the government’s Jobs Initiative aimed specifically at promoting the industry: the three-pronged strategy to encourage carriers to restore access: removing the Air Travel Tax, airport charges, and a targeted cooperative marketing to drive businesses on new routes from key tourism source markets.
Another goal is cutting the VAT from 13.5 percent to 9 percent on the costs of certain services, many of which relate to the tourism industry, including restaurant and catering services, accommodation and admission charges to tourist attractions, entertainment and sports venues
A Visa Waiver Program is to be introduced on a pilot basis from July 2011 to October 2012 for certain short-stay tourists.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “The growth in overseas visitor numbers of almost 9 percent is welcome news indeed for all of us working in the tourism industry. The figures issued today are well ahead of expectations, showing a strong turn-around and a welcome return to growth from Great Britain and North America, as well as from France, Germany, Spain, the Nordic Region and from Australia and developing markets.”
“After a number of difficult years for tourism, I believe the industry is now poised for a return to growth; 2011 will be a turning point for tourism to the island of Ireland and today’s figures are a really encouraging basis on which Tourism Ireland will build," Gibbons said.
“This has been an excellent month for tourism to Ireland with the announcement by the government of a package of measures to stimulate the tourism sector and then culminating in the two historic visits of Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama. We will continue to highlight what makes a holiday in Ireland unique and truly memorable. Our message is that there has never been a better time to visit, with great value and terrific things to see and do, ” Gibbons said.
Overseas tourism has a critical role to play in contributing to Ireland’s economic recovery. Overseas tourism business accounts for 59 percent (approximately €3.1 billion) of all tourism revenue and has the capacity to deliver even more for Ireland as part of an export-led economic renewal. Tourism is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, contributing in excess of 4 percent of GNP and providing employment for over 200,000 people in every community throughout the island.
Joe Byrne, Executive Vice President, U.S. and Canada, Tourism Ireland, said: “2011 is an especially exciting year for tourism on the island of Ireland. Not only have we had the opportunity to showcase Irish hospitality at its best to a worldwide audience, during the recent Queen Elizabeth II and US President’s state visits, but a number of other great events will also be taking place such as the centenary of the launch of Titanic in Belfast, the celebrations in Dublin marking its recent honoring as a UNESCO city of literature and, of course, the Solheim Cup at the Killeen Castle in Co Meath.”
“The new measures being introduced by the Irish government to help boost tourism in 2011 and beyond will help to revitalize, not only the tourism industry, but the Irish economy as a whole. We have worked hard to build awareness for Ireland as a must see vacation destination here in North America and have aggressive multifaceted marketing and co-operational promotion programs in place with our key partners to build on the goodwill and to convert the interest in travelling to Ireland into a decision to travel,” Byrne said.