Ireland — marketed as a land of "100,000 welcomes" — is on course for registering its highest annual number of tourists in history, despite the strength of the euro currency and global economic worries, the government said Thursday.
"As we approach the end of 2007, all the indications are that we will enjoy another record year for Irish tourism," Tourism Minister Seamus Brennan said after the government published the latest statistics on visitors.
The report said tourists were coming in increasing numbers from the United States and continental Europe, while visitors from the biggest market — neighboring Britain — were slightly down from last year's record levels.
In all, Ireland has received 9,919,900 visitors this year through the end of October, 4.0 percent more than last year's record volume.
The rise in U.S. visitors was particularly prized because Americans tend to stay longer, travel more widely and spend more money — despite the dollar's exceptional weakness versus the euro.
For the first 10 months of 2007, visitors from Britain were down 0.7 percent to 3.46 million. American travelers were up 0.8 percent to 952,500, an all-time high. Visitors from the rest of Europe surged 14.2 percent to 2.23 million, another record.
The strong growth in continental European tourism has been driven by strong competition between Ireland's two major airlines, Aer Lingus and Ryanair, which have dramatically expanded direct links between Ireland and European destinations. It also reflects wider growth in tourist traffic within the 13-nation bloc that uses the euro currency.
Brennan said his department planned to spend a record $73 million next year on marketing Ireland overseas as a tourist destination.