The Gathering tourism initiative for Ireland is proving to be a massive success as the number of North Americans visiting Ireland has jumped an impressive 15 percent this year.

The Irish Times reports that the Central Statistics Office in Ireland found that a total of 3,144,800 people visited Ireland between January and June this year, an increase from 2,982,400 for the same period last year.

The number of North American tourists from between April and June grew from 305,700 to 350,800, compared to the same months last year.

Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, said the statistics for the first half of the Gathering year were “very positive.”

“So far, it looks like the initiative is persuading people to visit Ireland,” saud Varadkar.

Tourism Ireland added that it was on course “to achieve our best year ever from the United States.”

Niall Gibbons, chief executive for Tourism Ireland, said, “In 2013, we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about $1 billion.”

Plans by Aer Lingus to begin flights from San Francisco and Toronto all year should help boost visitor numbers again next year, he added.

Similarly, the recently announced US football game of Penn State and University of Central Florida scheduled for August 2014 should also draw record numbers from the US, just as 2012’s Notre Dame and US Navy matchup did.