Visitor numbers include all non-residents visiting Ireland; that is, people who will declare to those collecting the statistics for the CSO that they live somewhere else other than Ireland, regardless of their citizenship.
The surveys have always been collected on this basis, therefore we are comparing like with like when comparing to earlier years. Purpose of visit is also collected e.g. business, holiday or visiting friends and relatives (VFR) but it is important to point out that in many cases VFRs are also on their holidays, stay in paid accommodation and make a significant contribution to our economy when visiting (in Q1 2015 there were 284,000 bednights in hotels by visitors whose purpose was to ‘visit to friends / relatives’. In that regard, non-resident Irish citizens travelling to Ireland have always been a feature of our visitor statistics, as they are for many other countries with extensive diasporas.
Furthermore, any suggestion that Irish emigrants returning home for holidays are causing a skewed impression of tourism performance is not supported by CSO data. A separate CSO survey, called ‘Tourism and Travel’ shows that, for the first quarter of 2015, bednights in all forms of visitor accommodation are up, except ‘visiting friends and relatives’, which was actually down on the same period in 2014.
While this more detailed survey has a longer time lag than ‘Overseas Travel’, it is reasonable to expect that the strong figures for overseas visits in the period Jan-Jun 2015, published last week, will translate into continued growth in paid visitor accommodation bednights.
It is also worth noting that the most recent data from the CSO that show the purpose of a visit (Qtr 1) has shown that those coming here for holiday/leisure purposes (i.e. not for ‘visiting friends and relatives’ or ‘business’ or ‘other’) increased by 13.3% compared to the same period of 2014.
The official CSO definition of a ‘visitor’ is in line with what Eurostat, the European Statistical Office, uses. It is: ‘any person travelling to a place other than that of his/her usual environment for less than twelve months and whose main purpose is other than the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited’.