Nearly 60pc of diaspora in US plan to visit for Gathering
DESPITE what Gabriel Byrne might think, the Irish in America are embracing The Gathering.
The outspoken actor caused a furore when he labelled the tourism initiative a "scam" and claimed the Irish diaspora were being "shaken down for a few quid".
However, a poll of Irish Americans has found them to be rather more positive with over half saying they will travel to Ireland next year.
The online poll conducted by Amarach Research for Irish Central this month included over 600 respondents from all but two American states.
Almost 80pc of those surveyed – who included Irish-Americans and Irish-born – said they were aware of The Gathering, while 57pc said they would visit Ireland next year.
Some 64pc of people who heard of the initiative believed it would make a real contribution to economic recovery.
However, the poll also comes with a warning – the majority of those polled said air fares and the cost of accommodation are still too high.
Three-quarters of respondents believed air fares were too steep while 42pc found accommodation over-priced. Just over 10pc also raised the cost of car rental in Ireland.
Project director of The Gathering Jim Miley said his team was working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure those travelling to Ireland get good value and that the main airlines have an additional 15pc capacity in the peak season on transatlantic routes in 2013.
"The results of this survey are very encouraging. Irish America is a very important market for The Gathering so it's good to see that they are aware of it and considering travelling to Ireland because of it.
"We hope to welcome many of them to Ireland throughout 2013," he added.
Niall O'Dowd, founder of Irish Central, said the Irish Government needed to tackle the issue of expensive air fares.
"The immense goodwill towards Ireland is clearly being tapped into by The Gathering. Like the Notre Dame game this year, The Gathering provides the opportunity for those who were thinking of coming to Ireland to make their plans."
The year-long initiative kicks off with New Year's Eve celebrations in Dublin and will see hundreds of events take place around the country.