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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 18 December, 2014

Here’s what happens when you are the millionth American to come to Ireland

You get a giant card and tickets for a return trip.

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Leonie and her husband Jim Higgins with Brian Desmond of Aer Lingus, left, and Alison Metcalfe of Tourism Ireland. Pic: James Higgins.

A WOMAN SPENDING her first Christmas in Ireland became the one millionth American to arrive in Ireland this year.

To mark the occasion, Tourism Ireland and Aer Lingus met Leonie Higgins and her husband Jim and presented them with a pair of return tickets for their next trip here.

Leonie and Jim, from Montgomery, New York state, flew in from JFK – they are regular visitors to Ireland but it’s the first time they’ll spend Christmas Day here.

This year has seen a rise in visitor figures to Ireland, in part sparked by the marketing campaign around The Gathering and other promotions. And the one million Americans who came here? They spent one billion dollars (€730m) in the Irish economy.

Around eight million people visited Ireland from overseas this year – it is estimated they will have spent around €3.64 billion here by the end of 2013.

Y’all come back now, you hear?

Bumper year for overseas visitors to Ireland this year>
You know we had a ‘Gathering’ 60 years ago, right?>

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