I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 16, 29 and 57 together.
These questions relate to the performance of the tourism industry. Over €37 million has been allocated in 2013 for general overseas tourism marketing, which is enabling Tourism Ireland to roll out a major consumer marketing campaign to promote Ireland and The Gathering Ireland 2013 in all our key markets. This is supplemented by a special provision in the 2013 Estimates for Fáilte Ireland of €7 million for The Gathering, to be used exclusively to fund the promotion, development and legacy of the event, and it complements support for the initiative from the tourism agencies' mainstream activities and from national and local partners.
The general response to The Gathering at home and abroad has been overwhelmingly positive. There are now more than 4,000 individual gatherings confirmed on The Gathering website, with new ones added daily. Gatherings are happening throughout the country and according to Fáilte Ireland, all tourism stakeholders, including accommodation providers, carriers, restaurants and attractions, are reporting positive results from the initiative.
In terms of visit numbers, early indications are that The Gathering is having a real benefit. The most recent published figures from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, show a 4% increase in overseas trips to Ireland between February and April 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. Furthermore, detailed CSO figures for the first quarter of 2013 are particularly encouraging as they show a 12% increase in spending by overseas visitors in Ireland compared to the corresponding period of 2012.
The overall target for the year of The Gathering was to increase the number of overseas visits by 325,000, and the data suggests we are well on target to achieve this. For the rest of 2013, overall sentiment for travel to Ireland is good, with particularly encouraging signs for visit numbers from mainland Europe and the USA, supported by significant growth in transatlantic air access for the peak summer period.
There are no plans to extend the initiative beyond 2013. However, I understand the tourism agencies and the Gathering team are working on how best to optimise its legacy, drawing on the experience to date.