The Gathering - an idea that came out of the Global Irish Forum some years ago - has helped to bring 7% more people to Ireland from around the world this year. 

In the hopes of keeping that momentum, Tourism Ireland today launched its marketing plans for 2014 to 2016. 

The organisation wants to build on this year's growth in overseas tourism and to welcome 25.6 million visitors here over the next three years. This will contribute €12.6 billion to the economy on the island of Ireland.

Tourism Ireland is set to prioritise the markets that offer the best return on investment - North America and mainland Europe.

Next year it will place a major focus on highlighting the "Wild Atlantic Way", the country's first long distance touring route which stretches all the way from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal to Kinsale in Co Cork.

Key events to be promoted include the start of the Giro d'Italia cycling race, the City of Culture celebrations in Limerick and the Croke Park Classic, when the  University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener.

"We will also capitalise in important access developments - maximising the promotion of new, as well as existing, flights and sailings to continue to grow overseas tourism to Ireland," commented Tourism Ireland's chief executive Niall Gibbons.

Tourism Ireland will also continue to leverage its strength in digital and social media next year. It is now the second most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook - after Australia - with over 1.9 million fans around the world. 

Emerging markets of high potential will also be targeted, including the countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. To this end, Tourism Ireland will have representation in Brazil and Russia for the first time ever next year.