Another disappointing summer for Irish tourism

  • Overseas visitors to Ireland this year are running below last year according to the latest CSO data released today, with the outcome for the year now expected to show a further decline and to fall short of target.
  • 4.5 million overseas arrivals in Ireland over the first 8 months of the year were 1.4% fewer than the same period last year.
  • Arrivals during the month of August, at close to 780,000, were down 1% on the same month a year ago.  August saw increased numbers coming from mainland Europe and North America, as the largest market, Britain, continued to disappoint with 6% drop in arrivals.  Nonetheless, the performance in August was an improvement on a very poor July.
  • The bright spots continue to be a number of mainland European visitors, a resilient US demand and some growth from a very low base from emerging long-haul markets.  US arrivals were boosted by the 30,000 plus attendees for the recent Notre Dame v Navy game, while anecdotal reports indicate small numbers of new visitors from emerging markets in Asia, the Far East and Brazil.
  • As traffic for the 8 months to end August typically accounts for close to 70% of the annual visitor arrivals, and with the expectation that difficult economic conditions will dampen demand for the remainder of the year, it unfortunately points to the outcome for 2012 being down on last year.  This will be the fourth year out of the last five when Ireland has failed to grow demand from overseas.

Chart-AugVisitors-07-12

  • While economic conditions in most source markets continue to dampen consumer demand, and present difficult trading conditions for tourism businesses, the challenge for Ireland is to capitalise on those markets offering some prospect of growth.  Consistently in recent years markets within mainland Europe continue to produce modest growth, while Britain – Ireland’s largest volume market – continues on a downward slide.  Visitor volumes from Britain are now about one third below the level of five years ago, while visitor levels from all other markets have shown far less volatility, even in times of recession.
  • This raises serious questions as to the effectiveness and efficiency of the allocation of destination marketing budgets.  Unfortunately at this time it is not possible to disaggregate visitor arrivals by purpose of visit and therefore it is impossible to evaluate the rate of return achieved on the multi-million euro investment on attracting discretionary visitors to Ireland.  However, what is clear is that Ireland has continually failed to reverse the fall in demand from Britain which due to its relative size makes it almost impossible to replace that loss by marginal growth rates from other markets.  Of course it would be make much more sense to be discussing revenue or bednight sales as a measure of performance.  Regrettably such data, as available in a timely fashion in other countries, is not available to our industry.
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