IRELAND has been named the world's most popular tourist destination by an influential Chinese newspaper, writes Allison Bray.
'Oriental Morning Post' (circulation 600,000) readers and travel specialists voted Ireland into first place for its annual Special Trip: The World Travel Awards, in Shanghai.
The accolade comes as Tourism Ireland hopes to woo more of the two million Chinese visitors to Europe in 2013.
Tourism Ireland spokeswoman Sinead Grace, said: ''I am confident that these awards will enhance the reputation of the island of Ireland and help to attract more Chinese visitors."
Ireland attracted about 10,000 Chinese visitors in 2011, and it is hoped to exceed this.
The introduction of a visa waiver scheme means visitors from China will no longer need a separate visa to come to Ireland as well as the UK.
As a result, 24 Chinese tour operators have now included tour packages to Ireland to coincide with tours to the UK.
Celebrity wedding planner Zhao Ruo Hong and her husband, the well-known writer Zhao Yan, attracted huge attention in the Chinese media when they toured the country in November.