The number of visitors from the USA soared by more than 16% during the spring months, it emerged today.
Official figures show 207,000 holidaymakers travelled to Ireland from the USA between February and April, up from the same time last year.
Trips by residents of Great Britain fell by 2.2% to 638,600, while numbers from mainland Europe grew by 8.8% to 541,500.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said the figures show an overall growth of 4% and suggest a positive start to 2013 ahead of the busy summer months.
“I particularly welcome the increase in visitor numbers from north America, which suggests we could be on course to achieve our best year ever from that market,” he said.
“In 2013, we hope to welcome over one million American visitors, spending about 1 billion US dollars.”
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed almost 1.5 million trips were made to Ireland over the three months, compared to the 1.33 million holidays that Irish people took overseas.
it showed the numbers of visitors to Ireland from around the world outside America and Europe fell by 2.8% to 70,000.
Mr Gibbons said tourism has a critical role to play in contributing to Ireland’s economic recovery, accounting for 59% – approximately 3.5 billion euro - of all tourism revenue.
He believes mainland Europe holds the key to tourism growth.
“It is very encouraging to see strong performances for the February to April period from important European markets like France (+20%), the Nordic region (+15.3%), Germany (+4.5%) and Benelux (+9%),” he added.
“This growth reflects the sentiment expressed by our industry partners, including tour operators and carriers, as well as some tourism businesses here at home.
“We know that Great Britain continues to be challenging, with the pace of economic recovery and weak consumer confidence still continuing to impact on outbound travel.
“We are implementing our ”GB Path to Growth“ plan, developed in conjunction with industry partners, to return this – our largest – market to sustained growth.”
The plan aims to grow British holidaymakers by 200,000 – 20% – every year by 2016.