IRELAND has enjoyed its best cruise liner season in 60 years with a 50pc hike in passenger numbers at some ports.
More than 100 major cruise liners have visited Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Belfast this summer, with the trade now worth almost €200m to the economy.
Some major Irish tourist attractions also reported a 19pc hike in visitor numbers.
These include Dublin Zoo (+18.2pc), the Guinness Storehouse (+6.5pc), the Cliffs of Moher (+10pc), Fota Wildlife Park (+15pc), the Rock of Cashel (+5pc), Kilmainham Gaol (+3pc) and Bru na Boinne/Newgrange (maximum capacity).
Cork has topped the cruise earnings list with more than €40m in spending as 135,000 visitors on 61 giant ships visited the port. This represents a 50pc hike in passenger numbers, compared to 2012 when 88,000 passengers disem- barked.
Four extra vessels visited this season compared to 2012 with eight of the ten biggest cruise liners afloat having visited Irish ports over the past 12 months.
Cruise liner passengers are the heaviest spending tourists and, per average six-hour visit, each passenger spends over €70.
Failte Ireland studies have shown that the sector will continue to expand with its potential amongst the highest of all Irish tourism sectors.
Two of the world's leading cruise firms, Cunard and Royal Caribbean, have seen Irish ports become some of the most popular on their itineraries.
The spin-off benefits for our tourism industry have included a business boost to bus-tour operators who ferry passengers to sites such as Blarney, the Rock of Cashel and the Cliffs of Moher, and a rise in income for the hostelry trade in the port areas.
The trade is mostly US, UK, Australian, Canadian, French and German passengers.