Applications from GCC residents for visit visas for Ireland have increased by 29% per cent in the third quarter of 2010, compared to the previous year. The applications peaked in August with a huge increase of 84% over the same period in 2009.

Statistics for the discoverireland.com/ae website for the same period show 365 individual visits to the page for private lakeside cottages in the picturesque County Leitrim in the west of Ireland, evidence of Ireland’s credentials as a family destination.

The number of visas issued in the third quarter of 2010 show Ireland is primarily a holiday destination with a strong educational draw with 49% visit visas, 24% student visas and 7% business visas. The remaining 20% is to a large extent Visiting Friends and Relatives. The total number of visitors from the GCC is believed to be significantly higher with European GCC residents not needing visas adding considerable volume of tourism traffic to Ireland.

An increase in talks between Ireland’s government and the UAE as well as between Ireland and Saudi Arabia is expected to have an impact on the number of business visas issued in the long term as bilateral trade is set to grow.

While Ireland has been recognised as one of the best value destinations in the Euro zone, the GCC population is looking to Ireland for luxury holidays.

Analysis of the discoverireland.com/ae website traffic for the quarter showed the most popular external links after visa application and embassies was luxury travel company Adams & Butler; a company specialising in renting out exclusive private castles and stately homes and gardens in Ireland. The top 10 most popular external links from the website also included luxury hotel group the Doyle Collection, the ever glamorous Powerscourt Ritz Carlton hotel, and the trendy design hotspot in the west, the G hotel designed by celebrity milliner Philip Treacy.

Aiveen Ryan, GCC Market Manager, Tourism Ireland, said:
“We are delighted with the growth in visitor numbers from the GCC market. The website traffic analysis is indicative of the type of holidays people were looking for in the third quarter, with a picture emerging of two distinct holiday types. The draw of nature and self catering lakeside cottages has a huge appeal for families, while the historical luxury estates offer unbeatable pampering and comfort.

“As we have come into the winter season, we expect to see winter fairs, and the Boxing Day horse racing festival at Leopardstown – a unique experience known to attract overseas visitors – climbing the charts.”

The discoverireland.com/ae website statistics also showed a great interest in festivals and events, and Cork is the second most browsed city in Ireland after Dublin .