Fáilte Ireland eyeing €157m business tourism bonanza

Flights from Cork to the US will provide a huge opportunity to attract business tourists to the south-west region, according to Fáilte Ireland.

The tourism body has set a target of winning €157m in business tourism for Ireland in 2017, with one business tourist worth three times as much as a leisure tourist.

Fáilte Ireland said that Norwegian Air International’s plans for Cork flights to New Hampshire’s Portsmouth International Airport or TF Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, which are about an hour’s drive to Boston, would open up new markets in the New England states on top of the traditional business powerhouse areas such as New York, Chicago and Boston, from where up to 60% of Cork’s foreign direct investment arrives.

The flights are due to begin in July, followed by flights to the New York area. Icelandic carrier Wow Air is to begin flights from Cork to nine US and Canadian destinations via Reykjavik in May. Both airlines say their flights could be as low as €60 one-way.

A briefing for key players in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) sector at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham yesterday heard that Fáilte Ireland will this year identify 550 leads for industry partners to pursue, which is a 10% increase on 2016.

Planning was based on thorough research into international markets and business travellers’ motivations.

Recent survey results revised the value of each business tourism delegate upwards to €1,643 in 2016, up from €1,500 in 2015 and €1,400 in 2014, said Fáilte Ireland. In addition, the team supported a further €27m in business won for regional Ireland.

Dublin has traditionally been the big winner for business tourism, but the regions will now be more aggressively highlighted because of greater access like Cork-Boston, head of business tourism and events with Fáilte Ireland, Ciara Gallagher, told the Irish Examiner.

She said: “Access to the regions have always been the biggest barrier. The US is one of our best markets and we are actively targeting Cork and the regions for corporate meetings and incentive travel.

“We are targeting buyers planning business around the world, which means buyers are particularly interested in site inspections here as well as the likes of Wild Atlantic Way and the Ancient East. Of these site inspections, 80% tend to convert to business.”

With its strong record in the pharma and ICT sectors, Fáilte Ireland would pursue those visitors for the south-west, Ms Gallagher added.

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