Along with more positive signs of economic growth generally, statistics on the tourism sector indicate growth in overseas visitor numbers and revenues in the last few years.
The Department of Transport note that overall visits to Ireland in 2013 rose by 7.2% and spending by visitors to Ireland also increased in 2013, with total tourism and travel earnings from overseas visitors growing by 9.4%.
Examining the regional and county data suggests that these trends are not evident everywhere with different patterns even at a sub regional level such as within the Western Region.
For example between 2011 and 2013, the number of overseas visitors declined in four of the Western Region counties; Donegal had a decline of 2.9%, from 205,000 to 199,000, Mayo experienced a decline of -18.6%, from 268,000 to 218,000, Sligo recorded a decline of 20.3%, from 167,000 to 133,000 and Roscommon recorded a decline of 11,000 (23.9%), from 46,000 to 35,000 in 2013.
In contrast, counties Leitrim, Galway and Clare all experienced an increase in overseas tourist numbers over the period. Clare recorded an increase of 44,000, to 485,000 (+9.9%), Galway experienced an increase of 9.5% to 1,028,000, while Leitrim had an increase of 8,000 (25.8%) to 39,000.
The trend in overseas visitor revenue by county does not always correlate with the trend in numbers of overseas visitors. Between 2011 and 2013, there were declines in overseas visitor revenue in four of the Western Region counties, Galway (despite an increase in visitors over the period) as well as Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. Overseas visitor revenue increased in three of the counties, Donegal (despite a decline in tourist numbers), Leitrim and Clare.
These data highlight important sub regional differences and trends, especially considering the emergence of the sector from recession in the last few years. It is important that all counties experience recovery in numbers and revenue given the importance of the sector to the economy of the Western Region.
The impact of product development such as the Wild Atlantic Way is likely to become clearer in data from 2014 and it will be interesting to note the effects on coastal counties in particular.