A Chinese online travel agency with more than 90 million members has named Ireland as the "best potential destination" to holiday this year.
The announcement was made by the Ctrip travel agency, China's largest travel company, after it surveyed more than 3m of its members who it provides with travel information.
Ireland took top spot in the best potential destination category, at the fifth annual awards event, fending off strong competition from Turkey, Sweden, South Africa, Dubai, Kenya and Australia.
The award is significant in that a number of countries are working to attract a strong Chinese holiday market, which is considered "emerging" and is seen as highly lucrative.
Tourism Ireland, which advertises Ireland as a travel destination in countries around the world, now has offices in four cities across China and has been working with travel agencies and writers to market Ireland's many attractions.
The body said a number of factors in recent years had made Chinese people more aware of Ireland as a holiday spot.
"We do know that Riverdance has been hugely popular in China and that has definitely helped to raise awareness of both Irish dancing and Ireland as a destination," a spokesperson for Tourism Ireland said.
"And the visit of the then vice president of China, Xi Jinping, who is now president, in February 2012 also helped market Ireland to the Chinese population."
Following this success, Tourism Ireland is now hoping to attract 50,000 Chinese visitors every year, a considerable rise on the 17,000 who visited here last year.
The agency is coming into its busiest period as China 'goes green' for the St Patrick's Day celebrations with a number of events planned.
Bord Bia is hosting a special family day in Shanghai while the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel and the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower in Shanghai will be in green lighting on March 17.
The two largest airlines flying between Ireland and China, Etihad and Emirates, have recently announced they will double the number of flights they operate this summer.