By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – A record number of tourists came to Ireland during the off-peak first three months of the year when there was an 11 percent increase in visitors overall and a 20 percent increase from North America, new figures reveal.
Tourism Minister Dr. Jim McDaid described the growth as “phenomenal” and said they indicated the target for an 8 percent increase for the whole of the year would be easily achieved.
He said the last decade had transformed the industry and the Belfast peace agreement opened up “dramatic new horizons” for further growth throughout the island.
“The promise of lasting peace and stability and the spirit of cooperation between North and South will be considerably enhanced to the mutual advantage of the tourism industry in both parts of the island.”
The number of tourists visiting the country for the first quarter was 867,000 up from 781,000 last year.
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The figures show the biggest increase was for North American visitors, up by 20 percent to 114,000. The number coming from Britain increased by 10 percent to 574,000.
Last year, tourism brought in record earnings of about _400 million.
McDaid said the Tour de France cycling race in July, which is seen by a worldwide TV audience of 950 million, and the Cutty Sark Tall Ships race in August should lead to further opportunities to promote the country.