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Number of overseas visitors up by 500,000

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VISITORS: Aussie tourists Lindsay and Melissa Klassen, Christie Hodge and Maddi Brick at the Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Eamon Ward

VISITORS: Aussie tourists Lindsay and Melissa Klassen, Christie Hodge and Maddi Brick at the Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Eamon Ward

VISITORS: Aussie tourists Lindsay and Melissa Klassen, Christie Hodge and Maddi Brick at the Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Eamon Ward

AN extra half a million people visited Ireland in the first nine months of the year, bumping up tourist numbers by over 9pc compared to 2013.

US and British visitors have led the way this year, with big increases despite the end of the Gathering tourism initiative.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show some 5.9m people visited between January and September - over 500,000 more than the same period last year.

Almost 2.4m people visited from Britain - Ireland's most important tourist market. This was nearly 200,000 more than travelled from Britain last year.

The number of people coming from Germany rose 16pc, the number from Spain by 13pc, and visitor numbers from long-haul countries rose by 11pc.

And 1.064m visitors travelled from North America, which was a quarter of a million more than the same period in 2012 and 130,000 more than in 2013.

Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe said that Irish tourism was building on a very solid performance in 2013.

"Our people, places and policies are delivering an exceptional experience for overseas visitors to Ireland - a fact which is reflected in today's figures."

"Obviously tourists are heeding the advice of publications such as 'Conde Nast Traveller', 'Rough Guide' and, this week, 'Lonely Planet' which position Ireland as one of the most attractive tourist destinations on the planet," he said.

Mr Donohoe said he would shortly be launching Tourism Ireland's marketing plans for 2015 and would also publish a Tourism Policy Statement prioritising investment to maximise the return from tourism in the medium to long term.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said that the surge in numbers was very welcome, given that overseas visitors accounted for almost 60pc of tourism revenue in Ireland. He said this would boost employment nationwide.

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