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Irish Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar Photo by: Niall Carson c/o PA

The Gathering sees a 15 percent hike in visitors from the Middle East in Ireland

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Irish Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar Photo by: Niall Carson c/o PA

The number of visitors to Ireland from the Middle East has increased 15 percent from the same time last year according to the latest figures from Tourism Ireland. There has also been an 8 percent increase in the number of visitor visa applications from last year.

Within the Middle East, Tourism Ireland is making an effort to encourage people from the UAE and Saudi Arabia to visit. Tourism Ireland is working on new marketing initiatives, such as The Gathering 2013 at the upcoming Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

The increase in visitor visa applications is credited to more flight connectivity and the Short Stay Visa Waiver Scheme. Thomas Redmond, Tourism Ireland’s representative in the Middle East said, “Greater accessibility for Middle East residents plays a significant factor in increased visitor numbers, with 17 flights per week from the UAE [United Arab Emirates] now in operation.”

The Short Stay Visa Waiver Scheme was introduced in July 2011 to encourage tourism in Ireland. The Scheme allows visitors from the Middle East who have a valid UK visa to also visit Ireland without an Irish visa. The UK visa needs a one time validation in the UK before it can be used in Ireland. The Scheme is also available to visitors from India, the People’s Republic of China, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and Bosnia.

Redmond said about the future, “We expect actual number of visitors to Ireland to be even greater than the number shown by visa applications alone. The Gathering Ireland 2013 is a significant, year-long initiative that aims to boost our tourism overseas through a diverse roster of prestigious events. It also calls for anyone with Irish heritage, or simply a love of Ireland, to make 2013 the year they visit Ireland.”

Tourism Ireland expects visitor numbers to increase by about five percent.

According to Tourism Ireland’s website, visitors from the Middle East stay twice as long as the average tourist and have the highest spend per visit of $1025. They are also more likely to travel throughout Ireland and make significant contributions to several tourism sectors.

Tourism is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and employs roughly 200,000 people. Last year an estimated 7.27 million overseas visitors came to Ireland.

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