According to end of year figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), 8,919,700 visits were made to Ireland between January and November — a rise of 11% on the same period last year.
The figure also surpasses the record number of visits achieved over 12 months in 2015 (8,643,100) making it the best year ever for Irish tourism.
Visits from mainland Europe grew by 8.8% for January to November to 3,096,300 while visits from north America registered an increase of 18.3% (1,699,100). Numbers coming here from to Britain were up by 11.1% to 3,620,500.
Visits from the rest of the world (mostly long-haul and developing markets) totalled 503,700 for the first 11 months of 2016 (representing an increase of 1.9%).
Spending by overseas visitors to Ireland in the first nine months of the year was up 10% compared to the same period in 2015.
Commenting on the figures, Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn said the focus for next year was to ensure that Brexit does not impact Ireland’s tourism sector negatively.
“It’s been a phenomenal year driven by a number of factors,” he said. “We’ve seen lots of further growth in terms of access to this country and that’s really helpful.
“Prevailing conditions in a lot of our overseas markets have been favourable and, to be fair, the Irish tourist industry has remained competitive. However, looking back on the year, a lot of things have happened that we couldn’t have predicted.
“In particular, I think that Brexit sticks out in that regard. Anything that affects our nearest overseas market like that is something that you simply can’t ignore.
“Looking to 2017, the tourism sector will need to shift its focus towards Continental Europe — a much more stable market with great further potential — to sustain growth.”
Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said the aim for next year was to continue to improve Ireland as an offering for overseas visitors.
“It is clear that 2016 will be another record-breaking year for Irish tourism,” he said. “We have seen exceptional results from north America for January to November — up more than 18% on the same 11-month period in 2015.
"I also welcome the strong increase in British visitors and mainland Europe has also turned in another excellent performance, with important markets like Spain, France and Germany all recording good growth.
“Tourism Ireland has a number of late-season campaigns under way right now, to kick-start our promotional effort for 2017. The aim is to grow overseas tourism revenue in 2017 by 4.5% to €5.7bn for the island.”