Varadkar hails Gathering for 162,000 rise in visitor numbers
TOURISM Minister Leo Varadkar said The Gathering has helped attract an extra 162,000 visitors to Ireland this year.
And good weather is boosting domestic tourism, which is also welcome news, industry experts said.
There has been a 5.4pc rise in overseas visitors to Ireland this year to 3.14 million, new Central Statistics Office figures show. An extra 75,700 visitors came between April and June, which was 4.2pc more than the same time last year.
Mr Varadkar said the official figures for the first half of The Gathering year were very positive. "So far, it looks like the initiative is persuading people to visit Ireland," he said.
North American visitors continued to lead the charge with over half a million coming in the first half of 2013, a 15pc increase on last year. Visits from mainland Europe grew by 8pc to 1.15 million.
However, visitors from Britain dipped by 1.1pc between April and June, which reflected ongoing economic difficulties there, Mr Varadkar said.
There was a 6pc rise in the number of visitors from long-haul and developing countries.
Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said the figures were very encouraging.
"Tourism Ireland believes that we are on course to achieve our best year ever from the United States. In 2013, we hope to welcome over one million American visitors spending about $1bn (€755m)," he said.
The number of Irish people travelling abroad, meanwhile, fell marginally to 2.96 million in the first half of the year.
Junior Tourism Minister Michael Ring said that the recent good weather had also been a tremendous boost for domestic tourism with many people choosing to stay in Ireland this year.