2015 broke all previous Irish tourism records, becoming the best year ever for the industry. Last year, nearly eight million people visited Ireland from overseas, and more than 25 million passed through the country’s main airport in Dublin, which also saw its busiest year ever. But 2016 is already upping those numbers.
In July, it was announced that Dublin Airport’s passenger numbers were up by 15 percent. Last week, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe revealed that the Irish state’s primary airport is the fastest growing in Europe, seeing a nine percent increase in passengers for the month of August 2016, compared to a European average of just two percent. This summer saw an all-time high of more than three million visitors travelling to the Emerald Isle, with an especially high uptake in holidaymakers from the US. By August, total visitor numbers for the year thus far were already above six million.
This spike in numbers has been attributed to an improved value for money rating, plus strong international promotion of Irish tourism trails like the Wild Atlantic Way and events like ID2015 (the year of Irish design). Irish festivals are also performing well, with the 2016 Tiger Dublin Fringe having its best year yet this September, selling more than 35,000 tickets. Whatever the reasons, Irish tourism is growing more quickly than ever before.
The question is whether the country will be able to meet demand should these record-breaking numbers continue. Dublin Airport may soon need to add a third terminal, only six years after its second was completed. Michael O’Leary, CEO of budget Irish airline Ryanair, has said he would be willing to build one for €200 million. Even with the approval of plans for several new hotels in the city in the works, Ireland’s tourism development authority, Fáilte Ireland, has estimated that Dublin will not have enough hotel rooms to accommodate the influx of tourists expected over the next two years.