European Tourism from Ireland in 2021  

According to Eurostat, 72% Irish people went on a holiday in 2021, with the Irish coming in fifth in a tourism survey behind the Netherlands (81%), France and Sweden (both at 78%), Luxembourg (77%), Finland (75%). This marked a return to normal levels of outward tourism from Ireland compared to the last pre-COVID year, 2019 (73%).  


The survey also revealed that 70% of all Irish tourists holidayed in Ireland and 30% went abroad for their trips, mainly to the UK (47%), Spain (12%), France (7%) and Portugal (6%). 



Over 2021, Ireland experienced 62% less air traffic compared to 2019, the last pre-COVID year. Following new and repeat mass cancellations of intra-European flights, ECC Ireland received large volumes of complaints from consumers seeking voucher extensions and cash refunds for cancellations dated 2020 and bookings made in 2021. The European Consumer Centre Ireland Annual Report 2021 reveals that 2,290 complaints received and processed were from Irish consumers against businesses based within the EU and the EEA, most of which had to do with disputes over travel refunds following cancellations.  

Air travel accounted for 1,353 complaints, with 16% of complaints to ECC Ireland coming from Irish consumers against EU airlines. ECC Ireland received a total of 262 submissions from Irish consumers relating to cancellations and reimbursement matters for package holidays booked with EU-based travel and tour operators. Overall, package travel complaints represented 7% of the total complaints received by ECC Ireland in 2021. This reflects the fact that holidays were either postponed, cancelled or simply not taken due to travel restrictions all over Europe. The nature of these complaints related almost exclusively to holidaymakers claiming refunds after being offered vouchers. 

180 hotel and accommodation complaints came from Irish consumers regarding traders based in European Union countries. As in the previous year, 2020, in 2021 ECC Ireland found that there were many different and often confusing approaches taken by accommodation providers and/or third-party engines to consumers’ rights and entitlements, as well differing and frustrating attitudes to reimbursements, in addition to deliberate delaying or processing of due refunds. 29 complaints were made to ECC Ireland by Irish consumers about European car hire services. Recreational/cultural services and events continued to be cancelled and rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in 2021, some already rescheduled from 2020. This affected mainly festivals and concerts abroad – these cancelled events, to which Irish consumers would have had to travel from Ireland, meant that associated transport and accommodation costs, unless they were part of a package, were lost or had to be rescheduled, sometimes for a fee. 

Many European consumers were assisted by local European Consumer Centres in order to obtain a refund or extend a voucher’s validity either from the airline or through a booking intermediary. At the same time, as European Consumer Centres and other prominent umbrella organisations such as BEUC highlighted the long delays in consumers receiving refunds for cancelled flights from 2020 and 2021, the European Commission intervened to expedite these – working with national consumer protection authorities in Member States it directly negotiated on behalf of all European consumers for bulk refunds to be made by September 2021. 

 Read an analysis of Consumer Rights in Europe in 2021 here