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Tourist boost as visitors up 11pc this year

THE tourism boost generated by The Gathering initiative is continuing, according to Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar, as new figures show an 11.3pc increase in tourist visits in the past three months.

Mr Varadkar also expects a further rise in numbers as a spin-off from the zero-per cent air travel tax.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) for overseas visitors show they are up 133,000 or 11.3pc to 1.31 million in the three months from December 2013 to February of this year, compared with the same period last year.

"These figures suggest that the positive momentum generated by The Gathering in 2013 is being maintained into 2014," said Mr Varadkar.

The CSO figures show visits from Great Britain up 14.1pc, North America up 16.7pc and Germany up 6.3pc.

"Fortunately, trade and industry sentiment in relation to 2014 is generally positive and I am confident that we can achieve our target of growing overseas visits by another 4pc this year," added Mr Varadkar.

He warned, however, that although there was a growth in visitor numbers, "we still have to fight hard for Ireland's share of global tourism spend".

St Patrick's Day had generated positive publicity for Ireland, and the reduction in air travel tax to zero would also have an impact.

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"This initiative has already resulted in a number of carriers adding new routes into Ireland and will also help in terms of our competitiveness as a tourist destination," said the minister.

The figures, which show mainland Europe visits up by 3.5pc and visits from the rest of the world up by 20.6pc, were also welcomed by junior minister Michael Ring.

Initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way, he said, could help to continue to grow Irish tourism, and the annual Meitheal event in the coming fortnight would present an opportunity for providers to meet overseas tour operators with a view to increasing visitor numbers.

Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons said: "Today's figures represent a very positive start to 2014 as we roll out our promotional programme around the world."

They aimed to keep the momentum going and would put a major focus on promoting the Wild Atlantic Way as well as events such as Limerick City of Culture, the Grande Partenza of the Giro d'Italia and the Croke Park Classic when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener.

Failte Ireland boss Shaun Quinn emphasised the growth in the British market, saying: "We very much welcome the continued strong recovery across all our core markets, especially in Britain where our new targeted marketing strategy appears to be bearing fruit."

HNEWS@HERALD.IE


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