State needs better data on international arrivals to Ireland

CSO should resume its valuable in-person tourist surveys at ports and airports

Good policies are based on good data. Those making decisions about the tourism sector, which was worth almost €10 billion to the economy before the pandemic hit, need better data on international arrivals to this country. The industry appears to be flying blind at the moment.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) usually compiles detailed statistics on the sector, released monthly in concise form. But this was curtailed after the CSO "suspended indefinitely" its series of in-person interviews of travellers at ports and airports during the pandemic.

This made sense. Firstly, there were few travellers to survey. Secondly, many of those who did arrive in Irish ports and airports at the height of the crisis probably would not have welcomed any discretionary face-to-face contact with clipboard-wielding strangers.

The pandemic is not over. But the restrictions on travel are, and visitors are now flowing back into Ireland, albeit at a reduced rate. But the flow of information is not as strong. The CSO has yet to revive its port and airport surveys, which not only gave insight into the health of various source markets for Ireland, but also provided accurate information on visitor spending and other valuable data points.


There have been suggestions that the CSO is still in talks with worker representatives about the protocol for resuming in-person surveys of tourists at ports and airports. It is imperative for businesses working and planning in the sector, and for policymakers allocating budgets, that these discussions reach agreement as soon as possible and that the surveys resume.

Many in the industry believe the detailed CSO tourist surveys may not return until later this year. This would be most unsatisfactory. In effect, it would result in a third lost summer of tourism data due to the pandemic.

As the sector strives for recovery and its leaders plan for the future, they deserve better information and more urgency from those tasked with collecting it.