Belfast Telegraph

Coast centrepiece of tourism drive

The Atlantic coast is to lead the drive to bring in more than 25 million visitors to Ireland over the next three years.

Tourism Ireland believes the growth in the sector can bring 12.6 billion euro to the economies of the island, north and south.

The Wild Atlantic Way, the country's first long-distance touring route stretching from Inishowen in Co Donegal to Kinsale in Co Cork, was finalised earlier this year with 156 discovery points along the way.

The 2,500km route with a series of loops for people looking to explore further, will be a major focus of Tourism Ireland's worldwide promotions next year.

Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland chief executive, revealed the plans for the focus on the Atlantic.

"We believe this exciting new tourism experience - showcasing the spectacular scenery and unique culture of the west coast - will have tremendous appeal in our markets around the world," he said.

The agency is focusing on drawing in more and more visitors from countries where they get the best return on investment, North America and mainland Europe.

Among other key events for next year are the Limerick City of Culture, the Grande Partenza of the Giro d'Italia in Belfast and Dublin and the Croke Park Classic University of Central Florida playing Penn State in their 2014 season opener at the GAA headquarters.

Latest estimates indicate that eight million people will have visited Ireland this year, a 7.2% increase on last year and a record for visitors from North America, Germany, France and Spain.

Tourism Ireland is targeting 8.9 million visitors a year by 2016.

Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said: "Our tourism industry is firmly on the right track and growing again. There has been a +16% increase in overseas visits since the change in government.

"Helped by The Gathering this year, we have seen record visitor numbers from North America, and a +26% increase in air capacity from the US and Canada. Key Government measures like the 9% VAT tourism rate and the suspended air travel tax will help us to build on this over the next three years.

"2014 promises to be a lot of fun, and we can look forward to welcoming more people from around the world."

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