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First time in history of state Ireland has had so many visitors this early in year

Slieve League in Donegal part of Wild Atlantic Way

This is according to data released by the Central Statistics Office which shows that in January and February over a million overseas visitors came to Ireland.

The figures also show that an extra 247,000 visitors came to the country when compared with the same period in 2014/15.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD welcomed the news saying:

“While 2015 was a record year for Irish tourism, we are targeting even further growth in the years ahead. Earlier this year, Minister Ring and I published our Tourism Action Plan which sets out the priority actions in the period to 2018. These actions will seek to move us toward our 2025 targets of €5 billion in overseas tourism revenue (excluding air fares or ferry costs) and 250,000 jobs in the tourism sector, underpinned by ten million overseas visits per year. The visitor numbers show that our ambitious policy is building from a strong base. All of our main overseas markets are showing good growth levels and I know that sentiment within the industry is very positive for the remainder of the year ahead’.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland said:

“Today’s figures represent a very positive start to 2016 confirming that, for the first time ever, we welcomed more than 1 million visitors in the first two months of the year. In the period December 2015 and February 2016, almost a quarter of a million additional visitors (+17%) came to Ireland, when compared with the same three-month period last year. Growth was recorded from all of our markets around the world, including Britain (+21%), North America (+13%), Mainland Europe (over +14%) and from Australia and developing markets (almost +9%).

“Our focus now is on surpassing last year’s success, to ensure that 2016 is another record-breaking year for overseas tourism. We remain conscious of recent tragic events in Brussels and elsewhere and the potential impact on travel; we continue to monitor the situation.

This increase in visitors represents how healthy the Irish tourism industry is at present because January and February are traditionally the slowest months of the year. St Patricks Day is considered as the start of the tourism season so with figures so high already it bodes well for the rest of the year.

Fáilte Ireland recently announced that it will invest €55 million in developing and promoting tourism this year, with the bulk of the spending across its three main propositions – ‘Dublin – A Breath of Fresh Air’, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, which is expected to get its official launch in May.

One of the ways the organisation is showcasing what Ireland has to offer is their recent launch of a Virtual Reality programme which gives viewers the chance to experience the Wild Atlantic Way.

Piloted two weeks ago at the international tourism fair ITB in Berlin, VR gives Fáilte Ireland the chance to show buyers and potential visitors just what they are missing. The experiences will be shared on the Oculus store where millions of people with VR headsets can download and enjoy them, further promoting Irish tourism across new and innovative channels globally.

The tourism authority are also investigating the possibility of integrating the VR experiences across their Tourist Office network and ultimately offer it to trade and industry partners to use for their own promotional activity.

Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Marketing, Noel-John McLoughlin said:

“Virtual Reality is proving to be a game changer in how experiences are consumed and this technology is set to be the most exciting innovation in travel and tourism marketing during 2016. I am delighted to say that Ireland is leading the virtual charge and is at the forefront of this new wave of innovation.”