AMERICANS have chosen Ireland as one of their top holiday venues this year -- with many wanting to visit for the Gathering.
For Americans deciding to cross the Atlantic to holiday this year, the biggest group have chosen Ireland ahead of all other countries in Europe -- with the exception of Italy.
USA Today magazine has now declared Ireland a "buzz-worthy destination" for 2013.
The Americans declared their preferences in a Gallup Poll commissioned by the magazine which talked to 1,038 adults in late December.
Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said they planned a holiday at least 100 miles from home this year, up from the two- thirds who said they did so last year. Eight out of 10 planned to travel at least as much if not more in 2013 and while most of them are planning a vacation within the USA, more than one- third said they would be packing a passport.
About a third plan trips both within and outside the USA but tourism chiefs here are hoping that many will cross the Atlantic for the Gathering, which is aimed to give the Irish tourism sector a much needed boost
USA Today described the Gathering as a year long celebration of all things Gaelic.
It also points out that Ireland has had "its share of doom and gloom in the last couple of years".
But suggests that the country has "decided to banish its economic blues by inviting the estimated 70 million who claim Irish ancestry to return to the Auld Sod for a bit of frivolity".
It also emphasises special events planned for the year, including Galway's "Tribal Shuck Off" which will be held in late September as part of the town's annual seafood fest.
The competition is open to non-residents with a link to the 14 tribes or families that fuelled the city's prosperity from the mid-13th century to the 19th century.
It points out that "familiarity with sharp knives is a plus" as entrants should be able to open at least 15 oysters within two minutes.