The number of international visitors to Ireland over the first three months of the year remained down 16% compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic hit.

According to data compiled by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), 1.7m people visited Ireland from overseas between January and the end of March.

But the representative body for the sector has expressed concern about continued inflation in costs and shortages of supply of accommodation and rental cars.

Over a third of tourism beds in regional areas around the country are now being used by the Government to accommodate Ukrainian refugees and international protection applicants.

ITIC is seeking a support fund to help non-accommodation tourism businesses who are impacted by these Government contracts.

"The number of tourism beds no longer available to the tourism economy is of great concern," said Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, Chairperson of ITIC.

"There will be tourism towns up and down the country with a shortage of tourism beds and therefore with very little tourism activity."

Failte Ireland has estimated that the reliance by the Government on tourism beds to house refugees and asylum-seekers could cost the tourism economy €1.1bn this year.

"Downstream tourism businesses such as attractions, cultural experiences, inbound operators, restaurants and vintners will be the ones to suffer," said Eoghan O'Mara Walsh, CEO of ITIC.

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Meanwhile, the organisation says that its preliminary estimates of first quarter inbound tourism performance, published in association with AIB, suggest that both US and European markets are performing well.

However, the important British market is "soft" and long-haul markets are still lagging, it says.

The first three months of the year are traditionally not the busiest of the year, but still account for 20% of all tourism volume annually.

The data is based on carrier and port data on inbound visitor numbers.