The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) year-end review shows that  2013 was the best year for Irish tourism in the past five years.

A conference in Dublin heard that Ireland’s tourists, while mostly from Continental Europe (2.5 million), include a whopping one million Northern American visitors.

ITIC Chairman Paul Carty said that while the Gathering can be credited with attracting large numbers of visitors for this year the figures all augur well for the future of Ireland’s tourism industry. They should, given that visitors are spending more and staying longer in the Emerald Isle.

Carty said, “Not only did we see a very welcome increase in tourism earnings and numbers, but significant progress was made in setting up conditions for the continued expansion of the sector.”

The Confederation predicts an increased in air travel capacity during 2014. This should result in more tourists visiting Ireland, while the planned promotion of The Wild Atlantic Way should attract visitors wanting to experience the country’s west coast.

“In 2003 a 10-year target for tourism arrivals was set at 10 million – Ireland was on course with eight million arrivals in 2007 before the global financial and economic meltdown,” Carty said.

“With recovery under way, ITIC proposes that the lost years can be regained and that the 10 million mark could be reached in the next five years provided there is a supportive policy environment, a clear business strategy and appropriate investment.”