Ireland has never been more popular with overseas visitors according to the National Tourism Development Authority's latest research.

Fáilte Ireland’s Visitor Attitudes Survey 2014 shows that overseas holidaymakers continue to rate Ireland as good value for money and almost all respondents said that Ireland matched or exceeded their expectations. The report is published as preparations are underway for Ireland’s largest tourism trade fair, Meitheal 2015 in the RDS this week.

When asked about their overall opinion of their Irish holiday, 55% of respondents said that their trip met all their expectations and a further 44% of visitors said their holiday exceeded all expectations. The top six reasons cited for a holiday exceeding expectations were:

Interestingly, when holidaymakers were asked, the most popular word used to describe their experience was “relaxed” and this was across all main markets. This was followed by “refreshed” – felt more by the French and Germans than North Americans. “Stimulated” was the word many North Americans chose and this was also mentioned by visitors from other parts of the world. The Germans also felt “excited” and “exhausted,” while the French were more likely to mention “calm” and the British “rejuvenated.”

In terms of value for money, Ireland’s satisfaction levels continue to improve with 54% of visitors saying that they found good or very good value in Ireland – up from 51% the year before. To put things into further perspective, while last year only 6% of visitors found value for money to be poor or very poor, in 2007 the equivalent figure was 41%.

Will 2014’s visitors return? Almost six in ten (57%) said they would definitely return within the next few years – almost half of these within the next year. A further 39% hoped to return at some time in the future. On their return home, seven out of ten (69%) gave the highest possible endorsement – saying they would ‘definitely recommend’ an Irish holiday to friends and family, rising to more than eight out of ten (81%) for North Americans.

Acknowledging the survey results, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe said, “The views of those who have visited Ireland last year are very encouraging, especially the value for money ratings. Improving visitor satisfaction is a key part of our recently launched tourism policy and this data confirms that we are doing the right things – playing to our greatest strengths while remaining a competitive and attractive destination. However, it is imperative that we stay on track and maintain that winning balance of value and quality into the future.”

This research emerges as the tourism industry prepares for Meitheal, Ireland’s largest travel trade workshop in the RDS, Dublin. Now in its 40th year, this year’s event will welcome 277 of the world’s top travel and tourism buyers – the highest number in many years – to engage directly with 500 Irish tourism businesses.