354,400 fewer tourists visited Ireland between January and March this year.

CSO figures suggest that in March there were 100,000 fewer trips.

In the year up to March the CSO has said there was a drop of 317,400 trips made here. The numbers from the UK are down 27%, from Europe they are down 25%, and the US down 3.4%.

But while CSO revealed just over 1m people visited Ireland this year, Irish residents made 1.4m trips overseas.

Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, said the lag effect of the world recession on consumer spending was having an impact on visitor numbers to Ireland.

Mr Gibbons said 'Over 60% of overseas holidaymakers come between May and September so there is still everything to play for, for this year.'

Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin has said 'tourism worldwide has been deeply affected by global economic difficulties and loss of consumer confidence, with Ireland particularly hit by exchange rate challenges.'

Minister Hanafin has said that 'the exceptional weather conditions in the first two months of this year also affected Ireland and most of our overseas markets.'

She continued that 'despite the effects of the volcanic ash cloud looming, Ireland remains open for business.'

Mary Hanafin stressed a €20m summer marketing campaign by Tourism Ireland has been designed to win as much business as possible for the peak season.

The Minister has said 'This unprecedented drive in key markets in Great Britain, the United States, Germany and France aims to create the conditions for recovery later this year,' she added.

Olivia Mitchell, Fine Gael tourism spokesperson, has said that
'the direction in Irish tourism continues to be down, down, down as these figures show that Ireland is losing 3,500 visitors a day everyday and the industry cannot possibly survive losing 100,000 visitors a month. Immediate measures are needed.'

Elsewhere, Sean Connick Wexford Fianna Fáil TD and Minister of State, has confirmed Government funding of €1.36m for the New Ross Quayside Development Plan.

Minister Connick has said 'at a time when more people are thinking of holidaying at home for financial reasons it is vital that we invest wisely in towns and villages with tourist potential.'