MORE Irish people jetted off on holidays this summer, but the number of tourists travelling here fell.
Disappointing new tourism figures reveal a downward slump in overseas visitor numbers, which tourist bodies are hoping to reverse by persuading an extra 200,000 people to travel to Ireland during 2013 for The Gathering.
Householders, schoolchildren and communities nationwide are being urged to invite family and friends overseas to come to Ireland next year for local events ranging from festivals to school and family reunions.
The latest Central Statistics Office report on overseas travel shows a disappointing downturn in 2012 as 55,000 fewer visitors than last summer travelled here between July and September.
However, the bad weather may have pushed more of us overseas in search of sunshine as there was a corresponding increase in the number of trips Irish residents made overseas.
Those rose by 2.1pc to just over two million during the summer, whereas the number of trips to Ireland declined by 2.6pc to just under 2.1 million.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said that the 81,000 drop in visitor numbers from Britain this summer was disappointing even though the numbers of high-spending US and European visitors had increased.
The Gathering 2013 would be the marketing centrepiece for the tourism industry next year, Mr Varadkar said.
A spokesperson for The Gathering said that 827 events had already been confirmed, and big centrepiece events would be confirmed later as the emphasis was on encouraging local initiatives.
Examples included a Burke clan gathering, an Anney National School reunion and an Isaac's Hostel staff reunion.
Listed events include weddings and events such as the Irish Bog Snorkelling Championships which would have taken place anyway.
Some €2m is being made available by IPB Insurance and The Gathering to support events at local level, including up to three flagship events in each council area and a number of smaller community-based ones.
The Irish Hotels Federation said it was too early to assess bookings for the initiative, but the "overall increased level of interest is very encouraging".
Tourism Ireland said that weak consumer confidence in Britain was having a negative effect on visitor numbers but a plan to restore growth from this vital market had been set out this week.