UAE travellers are big on visiting Ireland

A visa-free travel scheme has seen Emirati visitor numbers to Ireland soar

Tullan Strand in Donegal is popular with visitors looking for walking, biking and surfing spots. Courtesy Alison Crummy
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Known for its greenery and traditional music, cobbled streets and a rich literary history, Ireland entertains over 10 million tourists year-round and the Emerald Isle is quickly becoming a favourite with visitors from the UAE.

Since the introduction of a visa-free travel scheme last year, visitor numbers to Ireland from the UAE have increased by 63.5 per cent when compared to the same period last year, according to a report by dnata Travel, a UAE-based travel company.

Ireland’s capital is the most visited, with the report detailing an 80 per cent increase in bookings. Cork, Galway and Kerry have also shown growth in visitor numbers while Kilkenny, Donegal and Limerick are new emerging destinations for visitors from the GCC region. The report also indicated a 9 per cent increase in solo travellers visiting the country from the region.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive at Tourism Ireland, commented on the visa-free travel scheme being a historic step for Ireland-Emirati relations.

Both Emirates and Etihad operate daily flights to the Emerald Isle and the country has risen in popularity for travellers seeking outdoor activities. Trails such as the Wild Atlantic Way and the country’s hidden heartlands have attracted those keen on hiking, walking and biking adventures.

The country's reputation as a filming location has also boosted tourism numbers. County Kerry's Skellig Michael featured in Star Wars and HBO's Game of Thrones is produced in Belfast, in the north of the country.

Tourists have been busy visiting filming spots across the country such as Binevenagh in Country Derry which starred as the show's Dothraki Grasslands and Tollymore Forest Park in County Down, recognisable as the Haunted Forest.