WITH the school holidays starting this weekend and Easter just around the corner, the tourist season should step up a further gear with more people heading out of our cities to the countryside as the daylight hours get longer and, hopefully, the weather picks up further. But, already, there is good news on the tourism front as the number of overseas visitors to Ireland in January and February was up 7% on the same period last year with just under 1.25million visits with Dublin the main beneficiary.
Significantly, in spite of all the Brexit doom and gloom, more than half of these extra visits came from Great Britain with the next largest increase in numbers coming from mainland Europe. In terms of percentage increases, long-haul visitors were up 14.8% and visits from the United States increased by 10.7% – the latter coming before the St Patrick’s Day invasion which would have attracted even more tourists from across the Atlantic.
All of these statistics are encouraging – and long may such increases continue – but we also need to be wary of external factors, the main threat being how Brexit pans out. As regards US visitors to Cork, it is worrying that because of some of its aircraft being grounded, Norwegian’s passengers are being diverted via Dublin and, potentially, could put them off staying for as long as they intended in the south west region. Then, there is also the collapse of the Icelandic airline WOW, which was bringing US visitors to Ireland via Reykjavik.
Obviously, we cannot control the external factors, but we must make sure of the ones we can by continuing to improve our tourism product, diversifying it and offering value for money; success has to be earned and cannot be taken for granted. And, we should never undervalue our ‘staycationers.’