THE number of tourists visiting Ireland this summer increased by 142,000 over the same time last year to over two million, according to the latest figures from the CSO released this morning.
A total of 2,264,800 return trips were made between June and August - an increase of 6.7pc over the same period last year.
Visitors from the UK represented the largest group of visitors here who made 879,500 visits during the peak summer months of June, July and August, an increase of 4.7pc.
But the key North American market showed impressed gains of close to 20pc over the same period last year with visitors from Canada and the USA making 437,900 return trips.
Visitors from Eastern Europe, Switzerland, Turkey and other European countries were the third largest group who made 172,600 visits, followed by Germany at 169,100, France at 136,900, other areas - including Africa, Asia and the Middle East - at 86,000 followed by Benelux countries at 79,500, Italy at 77,400, Australia and New Zealand at 66,700 and Scandinavia at 63,400.
The figures, especially for North American visitors, reveal that The Gathering tourism initiative is paying off.
There were almost 300,000 overseas visitors here by the end of August, which is close to The Gathering’s target of 325,000 overseas visitors by the end of the year.
“There are still gatherings taking place until the end of the year so we are very confident we’ll hit the target,” a Failte Ireland spokeswoman said.
Failte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn added: “For us in Fáilte Ireland, these figures are clear evidence that The Gathering is providing tourism with the ‘jump-start’ we always imagined it would. The North American performance is very impressive and the European markets are bouncing back. The increase in British visitors is particularly welcome as that market has been challenged for some time. The trick for tourism going forward will be to maintain the momentum created by the Gathering and build on this performance.”
The statistics also reveal that Irish residents took slightly more trips abroad and within Ireland for business and leisure this summer than last.
Some 4.4 million trips were taken over the summer - an increase of 4.9pc over the same time last year.
Failte Ireland attributed the heatwave in July and Gathering events for a slight increase in the number of Irish people making last-minute getaways within Ireland.
There was also a slight increase in the number of overseas trips taken (3.9pc) to 2.1 million, including holiday and business travel as well as visiting family.