THE number of British visitors to Ireland dropped by almost six per cent last month as Brexit puts a dampener on tourism to the Emerald Isle.
But thankfully for the Irish tourist industry, increases in US and European visitor numbers have offset the decrease and overall tourist levels over the three months were up by three per cent.
The British drop-off will be of concern to the Irish tourist industry, with tourists from Britain remaining the largest proportion of visitors to the country.
Between December and February, British visitors made up 789,200 of 1,740,900 total trips made to Ireland.
That’s down 49,200 for the same period last year, sparking concerns that the drop in the value of sterling and increased general uncertainty arising from Brexit is having an effect.
Visits from other EU countries rose 0.7 per cent, while there was a spike in visits from North America, up 38.2 per cent compared with the year before.
“We’re seeing the impact of a difficult underlying trend in the British market,” said Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons.
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“Since the UK referendum on Brexit, the drop in value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors; and economic uncertainty is making British travellers more cautious about their discretionary spending, which is impacting on travel to Ireland," Mr Gibbons added.
“We will continue to monitor developments around Brexit closely, to better understand and plan for its implications on travel.”
The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) warned that if the decline in visitors continues at a similar pace it would mean 850,000 less arrivals from Britain and would impact up to 10,000 jobs.
“Brexit represents the biggest challenge to Irish tourism since the global recession,” said ITIC chairman Paul Gallagher.
“The Government has been asleep at the wheel, despite the Irish tourism industry’s urgings, and corrective action is needed now.”