High visitor increases down to The Gathering - Varadkar
TOURISM Minister Leo Varadkar has welcomed a 162,000 increase in visitor numbers to Ireland so far this year.
New Central Statistics Office figures show there were 3.14m overseas visitors to Ireland in the first half of the year, up 5.4pc on the same period of 2012.
An extra 75,700 visitors came between April and June up 4.2pc on this time last year, the figures show.
Mr Varadkar said the official figures for the first half of the Gathering year were very positive.
"So far it looks like the initiative is persuading people to visit Ireland," he said.
North American visitors continued to lead the charge with over half a million coming in the first half of 2013, a 15pc increase on last year.
Visits from mainland Europe grew by 8pc to 1.15m.
However visitors from Britain dipped slightly by 1.1pc between April and June, which reflected ongoing economic difficulties there, Mr Varadkar said.
There was a 6pc rise in the number of visitors from longhaul and developing countries.
Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said the figures were very encouraging.
"Tourism Ireland believes that we are on course to achieve our best year ever from the United States; in 2013 we hope to welcome over one million American visitors spending about US$1bn," he said.
The number of Irish people travelling abroad meanwhile fell marginally to 2.961m in the first half of the year.