I propose to take Questions Nos. 260, 266 and 270 together.
Figures published last week show that 2013 was a very successful year for Irish tourism with overseas visit numbers up by over 7% and the associated revenue up by 11.9%. My aim is to maintain this momentum this year and early indications are positive in this regard. Overseas visits for December 2013 to February 2014 were up by 11% compared to the corresponding period a year earlier.
The approved Tourism Ireland Business Plan for 2014 targets growth in visit numbers to Ireland of a further 4% this year and growth in associated visitor revenue of 7%. Priority overseas markets will again be the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France, which together deliver almost three-quarters of all our overseas visitors but promotions will also continue in other markets.
Tourism Ireland, working closely with Fáilte Ireland, is placing a major focus on highlighting the Wild Atlantic Way this year. It will also promote key events, including the visit of the Giro d’Italia, and the Croke Park Classic American football game. I am confident that other measures such as the retention of the 9% VAT rate, the reduction of the air travel tax to zero, and the increased air access to Ireland will also help to ensure that the targets are met. Given the growth levels targeted for 2014 and the occupancy levels across all accommodation types I am satisfied that, while there may be some pressures in some areas during periods of peak demand, there is generally sufficient capacity to meet the growth anticipated.
Some of the positive legacies of The Gathering include the fact that all of the increased air capacity secured for the year of The Gathering has been retained for 2014 with a number of additional routes confirmed. Furthermore, many of the events which were initiated in 2013 will be repeated while the experience gained by using the community activation process and local authorities has provided many lessons which could be applied in future projects.