THE NUMBER OF people visiting Ireland from overseas rose significantly in 2011 – and tourists also spent more when they were here.
New figures from Tourism Ireland show that the industry bucked the general economic trend, helped by high-profile events such as the State visits of Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama.
The body said it expects almost 7.4million people to have visited Ireland from overseas by the end of the year, a seven per cent increase on 2010. This will generate an estimated €3.4billion in revenue – eleven per cent more than the previous year.
Tourism is Ireland’s largest homegrown industry, employing 200,000 people and accounting for around four per cent of GDP, according to Tourism Ireland.
It said the State visits had generated an estimated €300million worth of international publicity, with scenes from Ireland broadcast in 110 countries and the subject of 38,000 news articles worldwide.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, welcomed the growth. He said: “Despite the faltering recovery in the global economy, the travel and tourism sector has been fairly resilient throughout 2011. We have grown market share from all top markets, including Great Britain.”
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar expressed hope yesterday that the positive effects from the two State visits would continue into next year. The Government has placed particular emphasis on stimulating the tourism industry, and recently pledged to maintain a VAT cut for related services.