It's official: 2017 is the best ever year for tourism in Ireland
With over two weeks of the year left to run, Tourism Ireland is calling it. 2017 was a record year for Irish tourism.
10.65 million visitors came to the island this year, the marketing organisation says, contributing some €5.78 billion to the coffers in the process.
In revenue terms, that's a 6.7pc rise on 2016 - the previous record year.
"2017 looks set to be another record year for overseas tourism to Ireland," said Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, who added that overseas tourism would help to sustain 225,000 jobs in communities around the country.
Growth was recorded in all main markets this year, with the exception of Britain - which has seen visitors drop since the pro-Brexit vote in June 2016.
Booming numbers are due to several factors, including a global economic upswing, increased air access, and the halo effect from TV and film exposure in Star Wars and Game of Thrones, both of which feature scenes filmed in Ireland.
With Star Wars: The Last Jedi set to hit cinemas this Friday, Tourism Ireland has launched a €500,000 promotional campaign, while Fáilte Ireland is rolling out some stellar marketing of its own, including a 360-degree video of Skellig Michael, a cinema ad, and a touring itinerary on wildatlanticway.com/starwars.
Next year, Tourism Ireland plans to grow overseas tourism revenue by a further +5pc, it says, shooting for €6 billion in revenue for economies north and south.
Concerns about British visitors notwithstanding (trips were down 6.5pc in the first nine months of 2017, the CSO says), the omens are good.
In recent months, Lonely Planet named Belfast and the Causeway Coast the world's No.1 travel region for 2018, while National Geographic Traveler listed Dublin on a Best of the World 2018 list now in front of millions of US readers.
Next year, Cathay Pacific will fly direct from Dublin to Hong Kong, Aer Lingus adds Seattle and Philadelphia, and Irish Ferries launches its new ferry, the WB Yeats, which will double the number of sailings between France and Ireland.
"We are heading into 2018 in a position of some strength, based on the success of 2017," said Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland's Chief Executive.
“In 2018, we will create ‘stand out’ campaigns for the island of Ireland around the world, highlighting iconic experiences like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route," he said.
Dublin and Belfast will also be promoted, particularly for shoulder and off-peak travel.