Tourism sector sees solid progress
Ireland's tourist industry has experienced its best year since 2009.
In its review of 2013 and outlook for the year ahead, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) revealed that almost seven million overseas visitors injected more than four billion euro (£3.3 billion) into the economy over the last 12 months.
ITIC chairman Paul Carty described 2013 as a year of "solid achievement", with a 6% rise in visitor numbers and a 13% hike in tourism revenue.
"Not only did we see a very welcome increase in tourism earnings and numbers, but significant progress was made in setting up conditions for the continued expansion of the sector," Mr Carty said.
"Government support for the sector was very positive with the continuation of the reduced rate of VAT on tourism services, the suspension of the air travel tax, together with other supports for job creation, as well as facilitating visa entry for visitors from many emerging markets."
He said the tourism industry is committed to growth and investing heavily in marketing Ireland around the world - and that business is likely to improve further in 2014.
More than one million visitors from the United States descended upon Ireland throughout 2013 - a record figure.
And visits from Britain grew for the first time in more than five years to 2.9 million, while 2.5 million travelled from mainland Europe and a further 400,000 from further afield.
An upturn for hospitality businesses also created 15,000 jobs over the past 24 months.
According to the review, as tourist numbers increased, so too did their length of stay and the amount they spent.
Much of this was attributed to The Gathering, which attracted large numbers from the US for a year-long programme of events.
The ITIC has predicted that increased air travel capacity in 2014 should result in more tourists visiting Ireland, while the planned promotion of The Wild Atlantic Way should attract visitors wanting to experience the country's west coast.
"In 2003 a 10-year target for tourism arrivals was set at 10 million - Ireland was on course with eight million arrivals in 2007 before the global financial and economic meltdown," Mr Carty said.
"With recovery under way, ITIC proposes that the lost years can be regained and that the 10 million mark could be reached in the next five years provided there is a supportive policy environment, a clear business strategy and appropriate investment."