In 1997, 5.1 million overseas visitors came to Ireland, an increase of 9 per cent on 1996. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism increased by more than 11 per cent to exceed £2.1 billion. This year is likely to see a continuation of the strong growth achieved last year in the British and North American markets, with modest growth expected from mainland Europe. Bord Fáilte has forecast overall growth of 8 per cent in visitor numbers and 9 per cent in total foreign revenue in 1998 which will be spread throughout all the regions.
As to the subject of where tourists are likely to visit in Ireland, that, of course, is ultimately a matter of consumer preference and choice, but the Deputy can be assured that Bord Fáilte's new package of regional measures will seek the most balanced distribution possible.
The board has devised a multi-layered approach which consists of enhancing existing programmes, introducing new regional initiatives and exploiting opportunities which are coming onstream. The board's intention is to have a strong regional emphasis in the activities proposed and to maximise the return by integrating activity at local, regional and national levels.