The number of visitors to Ireland from Britain fell by 6.5 percent in the first quarter of the year, the first drop in the quarter since 2010, according to the latest figures.
The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that the number of overseas visitors to Ireland for the first quarter of the year was 1.8 million, which was an increase of 0.6 percent compared with the same quarter in 2016.
The year 2016 was a record-breaking year for overseas tourism to Ireland, with almost 9.6 million people arriving here, an increase of 10.9 percent, or 941,300 additional overseas visitors, when compared with 2015.
“It is going to be a challenge to continue this upward curve,” said Shane Ross, Irish minister for transport, tourism and Sport.
While the overall figures remain positive, the first quarter of 2017 has seen a drop in the number of visits from Britain, he said.
“This provides an indication of the challenge the Irish tourism industry is facing following UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
“It is a challenge that the government will meet, working with the tourism agencies and the industry. A key focus will be market diversification,” he added.
Tourism is the island of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, responsible for in excess of 4 percent of GNP in Ireland and employing approximately 220,000 people.