New figures show that the number of visitors to Ireland increased by over 8% between March and May of this year, bringing the numbers to over 1,771,000.

This is an increase of 132,000 compared to the same time last year.

Trips by residents of North America to Ireland increased by 12.6%.

Visits by residents of European countries, other than Britain, increased by 9.6%.

Trips by residents of Britain increased by 5.6%, to 726,300.

Responding to the figures, Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar said the Government initiative, The Gathering, is gaining momentum.

Tourism Ireland's Simon Gregory said The Gathering in addition to increased accessibility led to the increase in visitor numbers from North America.

However, he said such increases are still not being felt in rural areas.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Mr Gregory said it is hoped continued growth in the major tourism centres such as Cork, Galway and Killarney will begin to filter through to the rural areas that are suffering.