The latest figures released from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in Ireland reveal an increase of 14.8 percent, to 182,800, in the number of North American visitors to Ireland between November 2013 and January 2014.

The total number of visitors from abroad exceeded 1.35 million in the three month period, the figures show.

Minister for Transport and Tourism in Ireland Leo Varadkar said the impact of the Gathering last year was still being felt.

“I’m very pleased to see 2014 get off to such a strong start,” he said, adding that last year had been “the best for tourism since 2008” with visitor numbers up 7.2 percent in total.

“There was particularly strong growth from North America, Britain and long-haul markets while Mainland Europe also experienced growth.

“The cut in the air travel tax to zero comes into effect in April and more than 24 new routes will start this year. This increased capacity should help us to grow visitor numbers further.”

Varadkar said the industry had ambitious targets to grow visitor numbers by another 4 percent in 2014, and revenue by 8 percent.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said, “The figures represent a very positive start to 2014, as we roll out our promotional programme around the world. Our promotions will receive a tremendous boost next month, with our Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day set to be even bigger and better than ever before.

St. Patrick’s Day traditionally marks the real start of the tourism season for us and we will be taking every opportunity to capitalize on Ireland’s heightened profile.

“As we look to the year ahead, we aim to keep the momentum going and build on the success of 2013. We will also build on the legacy of the Gathering, continuing to reach out to the Diaspora across the world.”

Fáilte Ireland Chief Executive Shaun Quinn told the Irish Times, “the rising number of overseas visitors was good news for job creation, especially in rural communities around the country where tourism is central to the local economy.

“This year, we are revamping tourism in Dublin, rolling out the Wild Atlantic Way in the west, developing attractions in the east and south and building on the legacy of the Gathering,” he said.

“All of this will help us continue the very positive momentum we’ve experienced in the last year or so.”

Minister Varadkar added that the celebrations surrounding the start of the Giro D’Italia in Ireland and the Croke Park Classic American Football game should draw additional visitors to Ireland in 2014.