Almost half of the 232 IDA sponsored site visits by potential foreign direct investors have been virtual-visits this year.

That is according to new figures provided by Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Leo Varadkar which highlight the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on IDA investor site visits in 2020.

In a written Dáil reply on the issue to Sinn Féin Deputy Pa Daly, the Tánaiste has revealed that for the first three quarters of this year, there have been 232 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) site visits.

Minister Varadkar revealed that of the 232 site visits, 101 - or 43% of the total - have been e-visits.

The nine month total compares to 700 site visits for 2019.

The 2020 figures shows that Dublin again dominates accounting for 37% or 86 visits of the 2020 total of 232.

Dublin is followed by Cork (22), Limerick and Cork (16) and Clare (15). 

Roscommon and Longford have not recorded any visits this year while there have been only one visit to Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Laois, Mayo, Monaghan and Offaly.

A spokeswoman for the IDA stated today that there have been no physical site visits since the first lockdown.

In his reply, the Tánaiste said: "Covid-19 has presented undeniable challenges to our ongoing efforts to sustain and grow FDI in Ireland.

"The introduction of travel restrictions around the world is already disrupting the typical way in which the IDA engages with investors, resulting in fewer numbers of site visits and client meetings. 

"The pandemic has also impacted investor confidence and has likely caused some investment decisions to be delayed or postponed."

The Tanaiste said that "as an alternative to site visits, the IDA has migrated many of its business development and client engagement activities to digital platforms". 

He said, "The Agency has developed new digital content and has also put in place an E-Site Visit experience for potential investors."

The IDA spokeswoman stated that the body has "developed a stock of video content for different locations before the COVID-19 pandemic".  

She said the IDA is currently operating a 'virtual first' policy with itineraries now being successfully delivered remotely. 

"Organised through a series of meetings via online meeting platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, IDA Ireland executives use digital marketing tools, videos and feature client tours of locations and property solutions as well as presentations from different stakeholders, i.e. recruitment consultants, Universities and IoTs, and testimonials from representatives of client companies already established in Ireland," the spokesperson said.

She said live, in-person itineraries are restricted but will resume when travel restrictions and social distancing requirements are lifted. 

"IDA staff are in constant contact with existing and target clients including through the use of e-site visits to generate new business. It can however never replicate the level of engagement and development of deep and meaningful business relationships and trust and confidence that comes about through face-to-face meetings."