Some one million fewer visitors headed for Ireland in 2010 as negative headlines generated by the country’s economic meltdown deterred holidaymakers.
In total 5.5 million people traveled to the country in 2010, a 16 per cent fall on the figure recorded in 2009.
Pictured: Dublin Castle is one of the most popular attractions in Ireland
In the last three years, annual revenue from overseas visitors has declined by €1.7 billion.
However, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC), which compiled the figures, said it remained hopeful visitor numbers will increase in the coming year.
“We need to get the message out there that we are open for business, even though we have taken a hiding,” ITIC chief executive Eamonn McKeon said.
The organisation - which represents a range of organisations with interests in the Irish tourism sector – argued a €7 reduction in the airport departure tax was one example of how the sector was fighting back.
“The virtual collapse of the British market for Ireland is especially worrying as Ireland’s largest source market has declined by a third since 2007, almost 1.3 million fewer visitors,” the review said.
A weaker euro is also expected to help attract visitors from the key UK and US markets.
Irish fortunes have mirrored those of Britain, where tourism numbers have also been falling during the economic downturn.
The argues a recovery in the numbers visiting from abroad is crucial to the tourism sector, as domestic demand is not likely to recover significantly over the next few years.