Tourism bonanza: eight million visits to Ireland

Leo Varadkar: tourism is firmly 'on the right track'

Alan O’Keeffe

Eight million people will have visited Ireland in 2013 - with record numbers arriving from the US, Germany, France and Spain.

The big success of The Gathering helped to bring an increase of 7.2 pc in visitors compared to last year, according to Tourism Ireland today.

The organisation announced its goal is to welcome 25.6 million visitors to Ireland in the coming three years.

Ireland’s ‘best prospect’ visitors will be targeted more closely – with distinctive holiday experiences, events and special offers tailored to their interests and designed to trigger their ‘must go now’ impulses.

Launching its new tourist boosting strategy, the organisation declared it will seek to get potential visitors talking about Ireland among their colleagues and friends and then sharing those conversations online – by harnessing the growing power of social media.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, said: “Our tourism industry is firmly on the right track and growing again.

“There has been a +16% increase in overseas visits since the change in government. Helped by The Gathering this year, we have seen record visitor numbers from North America, and a +26% increase in air capacity from the US and Canada.

“Key Government measures like the 9% VAT tourism rate and the suspended air travel tax will help us to build on this over the next three years.

“Next year, we have new initiatives like the Wild Atlantic Way; and we will host the Giro d’Italia cycle race and the biggest American college football game ever held in Ireland. 2014 promises to be a lot of fun,” he said.

Next year, those major events will include the launch of Limerick as the City of Culture.    The ‘Grande Partenza’ or ‘Big Start’ of the Giro d’Italia, cycle race is expecting to bring in big numbers from Italy. And the ‘Croke Park Classic,’ when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener will also be a big visitor fixture.

Promoting the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s first long-distance touring route stretching all the way from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal to Kinsale in Co Cork, will be a major focus of Tourism Ireland’s activity around the globe in 2014.