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We're about to find new Earth Tourism set to bounce back

Astronomers say they are on the verge of finding planets like Earth orbiting other stars, a key step in determining if we are alone in the universe.

Scientists say that within four or five years they should discover the first Earth-like planet where life could develop, or may have already.

An "exoplanet" -- one outside our solar system -- could even be found this year, if preliminary hints from a new space telescope pan out.

"The fundamental question is: are we alone?" said Simon Worden, head of Nasa's Ames Research Centre.

"For the first time, there's an optimism that sometime in our lifetimes we're going to get to the bottom of that,"

"If I were a betting man, I would bet we're not alone -- there is a lot of life."

Tourism set to bounce back

The vast majority of tourism firms believe the worst is over after the beleaguered sector suffered one of its toughest years.

Almost two-thirds of businesses dependent on holidaymakers feel the next 12 months will be on a par or better than last year, compared with just a fifth heading into 2009.

Revenue dropped 17pc last year to its lowest level since 2004, while the number of overseas visitors plummeted 12pc.

Failte Ireland said it hoped 2010 would mark a turning point for the sector and was unveiling new strategies to encourage growth, including giving visiting pensioners rail discounts.

Failte Ireland said that the downturn in international tourism hit the country badly last year, making for an "ugly" year of trading.