Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been in Madrid this week, to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Yesterday (12 January), he met with Tourism Ireland staff, as well as leading Spanish tour operators and airlines (including Iberia Express) who programme and sell holidays to Ireland. Iberia Express will expand its service between Madrid and Cork for summer 2017, helping to boost leisure and business travel from Spain to Cork and the South of Ireland.
Spain is an important market for tourism to the island of Ireland. Travel by Spaniards to Ireland has grown significantly over the past 15 years – going from just 90,000 Spanish visitors in 2000 to a record 340,000 visitors in 2015. And 2016 was another record-breaking year, with estimated visitor numbers up +12%, to 380,000.
Tourism Ireland is determined to ensure that growth continues and will roll out a busy programme of promotions right throughout 2017; the organisation is targeting growth of +4% in Spanish visitors to Ireland this year. Factors working in our favour include strong air connectivity, with a significant increase in the number of direct flights to Ireland over the past few years; and interest in visiting Ireland remains high among Spanish travellers, with Spaniards consistently ranking Ireland in their ‘top ten’ destinations to visit. Also, more than 20% of all Spanish visitors to Ireland arrive in the off-season or Q4 – a real opportunity to win business at a time when there is capacity here in accommodation and other tourism facilities.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said, “2016 is set to be the best year ever for Spanish visitor numbers to Ireland, with the latest CSO figures showing growth of over +12% for the January to September period. Tourism Ireland will roll out an extensive programme of promotional activity once again throughout 2017. We will work closely with our tourism partners – at home and in Spain – to build on the growth of the past few years.”