Clare Deputy and Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs Pat Breen T.D. said today (Tuesday) that County Clare is poised to benefit from the upsurge in tourism activity, with 2015 set to become a bumper year for tourism.
“Recent figures released by the CSO show that more than 2.4 million trips were made to Ireland between July and September of this year, up 7.9% on the same period last year. And for the first nine months of 2014, more than 5.9 m trips were made here an increase of 500,000 visitors in the January to September period last year.
Our Tourism Industry is experiencing rapid growth and according to Bord Failte, the number of visitors will grow again next year with 2015 set to become a bumper year for tourism with record levels of revenue expected and the creation of a further 8,000 jobs in the Industry.
The Tourism Sector in Clare has also experienced growth thanks in the main to the revival of Shannon Airport, the abolition of the Air Travel Tax and the retention of the reduced VAT on tourism services.
The promotion of the Wild Atlantic has been a major success with the opening of the Lighthouse in Loop Head helping to drive tourists back into West Clare. The Loop Head Peninsula received a major boost this week when it was the only Irish destination named in the inaugural ‘Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100 Travel Guide ‘which sees Loop Head and Kilkee joining such places such as La Palma in the Canaries and Vancouver in Canada in the top 100 sustainable tourism destinations around the world. And given that an additional €850,000 has been made available to Fáilte Ireland which in part will be invested in developing the web presence of the Wild Atlantic Way particularly in the international markets we should see more visitors attracted along the route in 2015.
An increase in visitor numbers has also been recorded this year at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre. Over one million visitors had visited the Cliffs by the 20th October this year making it one of Europe’s most visited sites. It is also now one of the most popular destinations for Chinese Tourists since the now President Xi Jingping visit to the Cliffs was beamed all over the China in 2012.
China is an important emerging travel market with Tourism Ireland estimating that approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Chinese visitors came of the island of Ireland in 2013. The introduction of the British Irish Visa Scheme whereby Chinese visitors will no longer be required to apply for a separate visa to visit Ireland once they have a UK short stay visa should see more Chinese visitors attracted into the County and having an International Airport on our doorstep makes it easier for them to access County Clare.
Shannon Airport’s return to growth is also playing a critical role in bolstering our Tourism Sector. The Airports strong performance in 2014 continued in to November when passenger traffic increased by 26%, up from 77,002 to 97,292 on the same month last year.
This trend in passenger growth is set to continue given the commitment from a number of airlines to expand their services next year. Ryanair have added 10 routes to their Shannon network since the air travel tax was abolished and they will carry an additional 300,000 passengers through Shannon in the year to March 2015. They are currently preparing their new schedules and routes for the second half of 2015 and plan to make Shannon an integral part of their business.
While increased frequencies and capacity on Transatlantic Routes served by Aer Lingus, Delta and American Airlines is set to bolster transatlantic traffic into Shannon by at least 11%. America Airlines is set to deliver the biggest increase providing an additional 20,000 seats in 2015 when of course they will celebrate the 70th anniversary of their first commercial flight which operated into Shannon on the 24th October 1945.
With confidence high that 2015 will be a bumper year for Irish Tourism, County Clare is poised to benefit from this upsurge in tourism activity, which is good news for our tourism Industry which is such an important industry for our local economy.”