Ireland’s ever-rising international profile has brought many unexpected economic bonuses

Ireland’s ever-rising international profile has brought many unexpected economic bonuses — not least the emergence of business tourism.

Relatively small until a decade ago, the conference and event division has shown itself to be a muscular and welcome addition to the nation’s tourism offering and a significant contributor to exchequer revenue.

Business tourism was worth €760 million to the Irish economy in 2017, a 35% increase since 2011. It supports 22,000 jobs and accounts for 16% of overseas spend — one of the highest yield sectors in tourism.

Promotable business has accelerated at an even faster pace, growing 52% in the last five years. Each business tourism delegate to our shores is worth an average €1,600 per visit — almost three times that of the leisure tourist. On average, each delegate extends their stay by an additional three days beyond their business commitment.

Ireland was recently showcased as a conference destination to a group of visiting US meeting planners from the likes of New York, Florida, Washington DC and California. It was hosted by Fáilte Ireland’s Meet in Ireland team, in partnership with Tourism Ireland, Kerry Convention Bureau and The Shannon Region Conference & Sports Bureau.

Fáilte Ireland’s Meet in Ireland manager, Ciara Gallagher said: “Business visitors want to immerse themselves in the culture of the country they’re visiting — it is the most lucrative form of tourism.”

Over the first quarter of 2018, Fáilte Ireland had already secured €42m worth of conferences and corporate events, while supporting regional convention bureaus in Kerry, Galway, Shannon and Cork to convert a further €10m for their

respective localities. Over the next 10 years, Fáilte Ireland has set itself the target of growing this market by 55% to €1.2bn.

An estimated 75% of all international conferences that come do so at the direct invitation of a local Irish member or host, an initiative which Fáilte Ireland’s Meet in Ireland team maximises through its Conference Ambassador programme.

A unique programme launched in 2009 supporting individuals who want to host an international conference in Ireland, it developed over 670 conference ambassadors in its first seven years, generating conference business worth €600m.

Described as “persons of knowledge and stature, influential in their field, who can act as a representative of their destination,” these economic emissaries have proven themselves another arm of the global Irish diaspora whose positive emotional bonds to their native soil has been effectively harnessed to significant benefit.

Ms Gallagher said:

Conferences are big business — last year we secured events worth €419m, accounting for a total of 262,000 international delegates

Business tourists are not only looking for world-class venues and facilities. More and more, meeting planners are seeking destinations with large clusters of aligned industries and leaders. Home to more than 1,000 multinationals, Ireland is well placed to deliver this as a centre of innovation — a pivotal link where the efforts of industry ambassadors are key to getting the final decision over the line.

While Dublin continues to reap the lion’s share of the sector, regional centres are steadily exerting their individual attractions into the mix, bolstered by local attractions of scenic beauty, cultural history and sporting amenities — specifically golf, a leisure rider underlined on many a conference delegate’s ‘must do’ list.

Evelyn O’Sullivan, manager of Cork Convention Bureau, said: “More than €80m has been generated from conferences in the past 10 years here in Cork. During the last 12 months alone, we have helped bring more than 14,000 delegates to Cork, 10,000 of whom were international visitors.

“We have worked with all types of individuals from industry leaders to cattle breeders to robotic surgeons, and have inspired them to use their connections to secure a conference or event for Cork. We help people to bid for, win and organise these events, but we can’t do it without conference ambassadors.”

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