Tourism Ireland diversifies as ‘Brexit challenge is real’

Tourism Ireland has seen a plunge in British visitor numbers as the Brexit effect hits holidaymakers’ budgets.

The tourist board said the number of Brits visiting Ireland between February and April has dropped by almost 11% year-on-year, from 958,100 in 2016 to 855,800.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “The decline in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors; and economic uncertainty is undoubtedly making British travellers more cautious about their discretionary spending.

“Therefore, competitiveness and the value for money message are more important than ever in Britain right now.

“Tourism Ireland is placing a greater focus on our ‘culturally curious’ audience, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations.

“We are also undertaking an expanded partnership programme with airlines, ferry operators and tour operators, communicating a strong price-led message to drive home value for money.”

To combat the fall from Britain, Ireland has been diversifying its tourism targets and has identified North America and Mainland Europe as “the markets which offer the strongest return on investment, in terms of holiday visitors and expenditure”.

For the February to April period, visitors from North America rose by almost 26% and from Mainland Europe by more than 2%.

Gibbons added: “I am pleased to see the continued strong performance from North America.

“A number of factors are working in our favour, including more airline seats than ever, from more gateways across the US and Canada.”

He said visitor numbers from Australia and Developing Markets for February-April are also strong, up almost 17%.

Arrivals from Mainland Europe grew by more than 2%, with important markets such as France (8.6%), Germany (3.8%) and Spain (+10.4%) continuing to perform well.

Gibbons added: “The challenge of Brexit is very real and the drop in British visitor numbers…reflects that.

“We continue to work with our industry partners, to diversify our tourism markets.”