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Old Head, Kinsale, Co Cork, part of the Wild Atlantic Way. old head via Shutterstock

We want to have more tourists than residents in Ireland next year

Leo Varadkar announces ambition to bring 7.5 million visitors here in next two years.

THE NUMBER OF tourists to Ireland from overseas has increased from 6 million to 7 million since 2011 – and the Government wants to grow that even further.

Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday that the CSO tourism figures show that Ireland is to meet its target of an extra 4 per cent on visitors in 2014.

“The data suggests we are on target to grow visitor numbers again in 2014, and build on the success of The Gathering,” he said.

The focus on growing visitors from “developing markets” is working, the minister claimed – he was in China just last week where he “saw at first hand the tremendous potential” in this sector.

I’m delighted at Tourism Ireland’s survey of Chinese tourists showing that Ireland scores high for beautiful landscape and scenery.

The minister also said he hoped to grow tourist numbers significantly by 2016 – bringing in 7.5 million visitors from overseas by then. (The population of the Republic of Ireland is currently just over 4.5 million.)

Comparing January to March 2013 with January to March 2014, overall visitor numbers were up 7.3 per cent; we saw an 11.5 per cent increase on visits from the UK, 13.5 per cent hike on visitors from Germany, 15.5 per cent from Spain and 13.1 per cent from Italy. Visitors from North America were up 6 per cent and visitors from areas outside the USA and mainland Europe up by 17.5 per cent – which confirms the minister’s claim that less traditional tourist markets are now increasingly important for Ireland.

Some of the attractions of Ireland being heavily promoted this year around the world include the Wild Atlantic Way, the Causeway Coastal Route, and on events like the Giro d’Italia stage here in May and the year-long event schedule in Limerick as City of Culture 2014.

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