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Drive to increase number of tourists


 Leo Varadkar. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Steve Humphreys

TRANSPORT and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar is setting a target of attracting at least 260,000 extra tourists this year following the success of the Gathering.

Tourism officials are confident that there will be further growth due to a 25pc increase in the number of seats on transatlantic air routes since the Budget.

And there will be a heavy marketing campaign to promote new tourism projects such as the €8m 'Wild Atlantic Way' – a signposted 2,500km driving route from Donegal to Cork which aims to become like South Africa's 'Garden Route'.

Mr Varadkar said his new target would be to grow the number of tourists by 4pc on last year – when over 6.4m people visited during the first 11 months.

"There will be a strong focus on sports tourism and outdoor tourism," he said.

The forthcoming events include the hosting of the first stage of the prestigious international cycling event, the Giro d'Italia, and the opening game of the American college football season in Croke Park.

Tourism numbers increased by 7.1pc in the first 11 months of last year, bringing the overall figure to the highest level since 2009.

A 4pc rise would require tourism numbers to increase by at least 260,000 this year.