Queen Elizabeth and President Obama have said their goodbyes, leaving a warm afterglow in their respective wakes. Now Irish tourism chiefs are hoping that the success of both visits, and the huge global coverage of both visits will attract the eye of potential visitors to Ireland.
Beyond this, they are hoping that a significant number who paid attention, not just in the U.S. and Britain, will actually follow in the presidential and royal footsteps.
Even before the visits, the number of visitors to Ireland was showing an up-tick, an increase of 8.6 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to the latest figures.
The total number of trips to Ireland in the first three months was 1,177,600, an overall increase of 92,800, compared to the same period in 2010, according to the Irish government’s Central Statistics Office.
And North America was leading the way proportionally with an 11.9 percent increase to 153,600 visits.
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Trips by residents of other European countries and Britain were up by 8.9 percent and 7.2 percent respectively while overseas visits from other countries rose by 12 percent, the CSO study shows.
However, the number of trips by Irish residents going abroad was down by 11.7 percent when compared to the first three months of 2010.
This clearly reflects the diminished economic fortunes on the island. During the peak Celtic Tiger years, for example, airlines flying from Ireland to the U.S. were filling close to half their seats with bookings originating in Ireland.
That trend now seems to be going into reverse with the effect being a greater dependence on the part of carriers on bookings originating in the U.S. and Canada.
So will the royal and presidential visit inspire a rise in bookings?
Ireland’s Minister for Tourism, Leo Varadkar told the Irish Times that he was confident growth would continue for the rest of the year.
“I don’t think anything could compare with the positive images of Ireland broadcast around the world in recent days. I understand well over 11,000 articles have already appeared in print and online media across the globe,” said Varadkar.
Tourism Ireland CEO, Niall Gibbons, is also looking to a positive trend as a result of the visits and also a package of measures being introduced by the government and aimed at stimulating inward tourism.
“The United States is a tremendously important market for us, second only to Britain in terms of delivering visitor numbers. Our focus is on maximizing the potential of this unique occasion and on promoting Ireland as a wonderful holiday destination to the millions of Americans who will come into contact with Ireland in the coming days and weeks,” Gibbons told the Irish business news website, Businessandleadership.com.