Tourism continues to contribute significantly to Ireland's economic recovery. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures for 2016 show that there were over 9.584 million overseas visits to Ireland, an increase of 10.9% on 2015. With regard to revenue, the most recent CSO Quarterly Tourism and Travel publication shows that spending in Ireland by overseas visitors (excluding carrier receipts) in the first nine months of 2016 amounted to over €3.647 billion, an increase of 9.4% compared to the same 9-month period in 2015. I am delighted that Irish tourism has had a record breaking year in 2016. This has been achieved largely due to the hard work of the tourism industry with the assistance of the tourism agencies. Both Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland will continue to ensure Ireland is highly attractive for tourists and the agencies anticipate another good year for tourism in 2017.
The longer-term tourism goals, as outlined in the Government's Tourism Policy Statement are that by 2025: revenue from overseas visitors would increase to €5 billion, net of inflation; we would have 10 million visits to Ireland in that year; and employment in the tourism sector would reach 250,000 compared to around 220,000 at present. In the event that these targets are achieved ahead of schedule, my Department, in collaboration with the tourism agencies, would work to ensure that Ireland's tourism sector would continue to grow in a manner that would be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
In terms of access, as an island destination, direct, convenient and competitive access services are critical to achieving tourism growth. There is a direct correlation between access and growth in visitor numbers. Tourism Ireland works with airports, airlines and ferry operators to identify opportunities and 'case-make' for new or extended air and sea services from key markets. Supportive Government policies on Air Travel Tax and the 9% VAT rate have helped to foster continuing expansion in air services to Ireland and increase our overall competitiveness.
A specific allocation of €1m was provided to Tourism Ireland in 2016, with a similar allocation in 2017 for additional focused co-operative marketing activity to be undertaken, to encourage visits to the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East via points of entry outside of Dublin.