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According to Tourism Ireland, The Gathering helped to increase visits to the county by 7.2 percent compared with 2012. Photo by: The Gathering

A record eight million people to visit Ireland by year's end

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According to Tourism Ireland, The Gathering helped to increase visits to the county by 7.2 percent compared with 2012. Photo by: The Gathering

An estimated eight million people will have visited Ireland before the end of the year, with record numbers of visitors from the U.S., Germany, France, and Spain.

According to Tourism Ireland, The Gathering helped to increase visits to the county by 7.2 percent compared with 2012.

The organization has set a goal to welcome 25.6 million visitors to Ireland in the next three years, with "best prospect" visitors targeted more closely with special offers, experiences and events, the Irish Independent reports.

Tourism Ireland also aims to increase "talk" about Ireland online through social media.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, said: “Our tourism industry is firmly on the right track and growing again.

“There has been a 16% increase in overseas visits since the change in government. Helped by The Gathering this year, we have seen record visitor numbers from North America, and a +26% increase in air capacity from the US and Canada.

“Key Government measures like the 9% VAT tourism rate and the suspended air travel tax will help us to build on this over the next three years.

The minister also mentioned several major events planned for next year. These include: the launch of Limerick as the City of Culture, the 'Grande Partenza’ or ‘Big Start’ of the Giro d’Italia cycle race, and the ‘Croke Park Classic,’ when NCAA football returns to Ireland with the University of Central Florida taking on Penn State.

Varadkar also mentioned that the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s first long-distance touring route stretching all the way from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal to Kinsale in Co Cork, will be a major focus for Tourism Ireland in 2014.

“Next year, we have new initiatives like the Wild Atlantic Way; and we will host the Giro d’Italia cycle race and the biggest American college football game ever held in Ireland. 2014 promises to be a lot of fun,” he said.

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