I propose to answer Questions Nos. 89, 119, 127 and 735 together.
Central Statistics Office figures for January to May 2012 indicate that visits from overseas to Ireland are broadly in line with 2011 levels, with a marginal decrease of 0.7%. Last year we saw growth in overseas visits to Ireland for the first time since 2007. While the figures have been on a par this year, I remain confident that we will see growth in the months ahead. The industry remains positive for the peak season based on inquiries and bookings, although clearly the outcome will depend on global economic conditions and consumer confidence being maintained in our key markets.
The global downturn has had a lasting impact on consumer behaviour, with tourists taking fewer short trips at off-peak times. Ireland is not immune to this trend. However, there are good reasons to be confident that we are on track for sustainable growth. Inbound capacity on flights into Ireland is set to rise by 3% this summer. Ireland has the most competitively priced hotel rooms in western Europe. The Government continues to invest in overseas marketing and our attractive tourism product.
We have had over 2.3 million overseas visits to Ireland this year. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. The entire tourism sector must keep fighting for business. The tourism agencies will continue to promote the fact that this is the best time to visit Ireland in terms of value and the wide range of things to see and do, including exciting events such as the Notre Dame-Navy football game in September which attract significant numbers from overseas. The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Michael Ring, and I will directly support the industry in promoting Irish tourism overseas in the months ahead, building on preparations for the Gathering Ireland 2013.