NORTH AMERICA and mainland Europe hold the key to promoting tourist numbers next year.
Tourism Ireland hopes to increase visitor numbers by 5pc to 7.6 million in 2013, which will contribute €3.7bn to the economy.
And chief executive Niall Gibbons said the numbers of people coming from countries less-badly hit by the recession including France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland was on the increase, with record numbers expected next year.
A 20pc increase in airline capacity from the US would also help drive numbers.
“The performance of mainland European markets has been quite strong,” he said. “ Visitor numbers from North America and long-haul markets like Australia look set to reach or even exceed the record levels of 2007.
“But it has been a mixed year with Dublin, other cities as well as the tourist honeypots doing quite well, but with rural and outlying areas finding the going harder.
“Visitor numbers from Great Britain, our largest market, have been disappointing with a flat economy and weak consumer confidence having a significant impact on travel by Britons throughout the year.”
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar added that positive tourist numbers would help boost employment, and that some €6-7m would be provided to help promote The Gathering.