ALMOST half a million extra tourists visited Ireland last year as the country enjoyed its biggest number of visitors since 2008.
However, despite the huge financial spend as part of The Gathering initiative, visitor number from Britain only grew by 5.6 per cent on the previous year, according to new Central Statistics Office figures.
By contrast, visitor numbers from North America were up by 13.9 per cent with the numbers from other European countries up by just 4.9 per cent.
The new figures show there were 6,986,000 international visitors to Ireland last year, a rise of 7.2 per cent.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said the increase was due largely to The Gathering marketing initiative, with a record number coming from North America.
"The fact that we achieved our highest ever number of North American visitors in 2013 is a credit to the communities across Ireland who staged gatherings and festivals during 2013," he said.
Tourism also thrived during the final three months of the year when a 9.9 per cent rise in visitor numbers was recorded.
Here there was a 12.5 per cent increase in the number of British visitors during this period from October to December, reinforcing that these are some of Ireland’s most important tourists.
The number of trips made by Irish residents to other countries fell slightly during 2013.
The figure fell by 2,700 in 2013 from the previous year when 6,325,700 trips abroad were recorded.