Eight million people from abroad, including one million from the US, visited Ireland this year, according to new figures issued by Tourism Ireland.

The total is a 7% increase on the 2012 figure.

Tourism Ireland said the industry contributed €3.64 billion to the economy this year.

It noted growth from all its market areas, with the US, Canada, Germany, France, Spain and Australia turning in record performances.

Highlights during the year included The Gathering and Tourism Ireland's 'global greening' initiative on St Patrick's Day.

"2013 will be a record year for visitor numbers from North America, Germany, France and Spain, as well as from our long-haul markets including Australia and New Zealand," commented Tourism Ireland's chief executive Niall Gibbons

"We are particularly pleased with the performance from the US - by the end of 2013, we will have welcomed one million American visitors, spending $1 billion," he added.

He also said that the UK market, which had proved challenging over the last few years, also seen 7% growth in visitor numbers this year in 2013.

Tourism Ireland also recently conducted its largest-ever sales mission to China and established representation in Brazil and Russia for the first time ever.