Fewer British holidaymakers visiting Ireland led to a slump in tourism figures over the summer, it has emerged.
Transport and tourism minister Leo Varadkar said poor weather during the summer and the flat economy meant that fewer people were willing to travel the short distance from the UK.
Official figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed almost 2.1 million trips were made to Ireland between July and September, down 55,000 (-2.6%) since summer 2011. They included an 8.9% drop in British visitors.
Mr Varadkar said: "The slight drop in total trips to Ireland reflects the disappointing performance from Britain, where a flat economy and weak consumer confidence had a significant impact on outbound travel. Lower visitor numbers were compounded by poor weather this summer. The reasons are complex and include the fact that fewer Britons are holidaying abroad now than in 2001."
While the number of British people travelling to Ireland fell by about 81,000 to 830,200, visitors from mainland Europe rose slightly in the third quarter from last year including German visitors up a record 7% and Italians up 14%
Trips by people living in North America rose by 3.6% to 365,200. Elsewhere, Irish holidaymakers made more than two million overseas trips, a 2.1% rise.
The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) raised concerns over the drop in foreign holidaymakers, including from the British market. Overseas tourism business accounts for almost 60% (approximately 3.4 billion euro) of all tourism revenue, which contributes almost 4% of GNP. It employs more than 200,000 people nationwide.
Tim Fenn, IHF chief executive, said while business levels increased in key urban areas over the summer months, performance has been poor for hotels and guesthouses across many parts of the country. "This is disappointing given the very low visitor base we're working off at 30% less than the 2007 peak," he said.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said global economic conditions and, in particular, the pace of economic recovery in Great Britain, continue to present a challenging environment for travel to Ireland.
"The British market is still proving difficult with a slow and uncertain economic recovery and weak consumer confidence having a significant impact on outbound travel," he said.