Ireland's chief tourism minister today hailed newly released figures showing a big jump in summer tourists from the United States as the latest indicator of a recovering economic situation in the country. Paschal Donohoe, TD, who serves as the Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport told a Boston lunch gathering of the Irish American Partnership that he had just been given figures this morning that show that US tourist visits between June and August 2014 was up roughly 18 percent over the previous year— a figure that is approximate to about 450,000 new tourists.
"We've had about one-fifth more American tourists this summer," said Donohoe, who told the luncheon audience at the Boston Harbor Hotel that he had been awakened to the good news in a text message. Donohoe is visiting the US this week as part of a Tourism Ireland tour to key American cities.
"The reason why it's all happening is that we have a private sector who have responded to the challenge of putting together a touring offering that is second to none," said Minister Donohoe, who pointed to the statistical leap as the latest in a string of indicators of a resurgent Irish economy. Ireland has added 70,000 jobs over the last year at a pace of about 1,000 per week, Donohoe noted.
Latest projections show the Irish economy growing at a rate of about 4.5 percent, he said.
Stephen McNally, president of the Irish Hotels Federation, said Friday that the numbers released by the Irish government are in line with what the industry's figures show as well.
"From the Irish hotels point of view it's been a tremendous year. We've had a record number of visitors which is fantastic," said McNally. "A lot of the hotels around the country are experiencing a much better time and as a result have been doing a great deal of refurbishment and renewal work, so the product will only increase."
McNally said that the number of flights coming into Dublin Airport in August, for instance, is up by 70 flights per peek over last August.
"It shows that there are a lot more visitors coming in," said McNally, who noted that aside from America, the biggest tourist sources for Ireland are Britain, France and Germany.
Shannon Airport is also experience strong growth after a period of reduced flights. The new uptick at the west coast gateway was symbolized this past week by the arrival of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who will return to America next Monday through Shannon.
"Now thankfully it's all coming back again," said McNally. "It's a great passport to Ireland— you can get into Shannon, its quite easy to get through the airport and you're close to the Great Atlantic Way, which is fantastic for tourists.