As the tourist year starts to wind down from the high point of summer into the autumn shoulder season, Ireland’s tourism agencies are looking to new markets with lucrative potential for 2018 and beyond, writes John Daly.
Fáilte Ireland is currently developing a “luxury strategy” to target growth in numbers of high net worth visitors from the US and Asia.
While Ireland has already been successful in attracting high-end ‘golf and castles’ tourism to the value of €200m annually, a much bigger jackpot estimated at over €170bn globally is also available to exploit.
The targeting of niche luxury markets was one of the activities highlighted in the recently launched ‘Get Brexit Ready’ initiative.
“From our research we know that the luxury market globally is growing and evolving,” said Fáilte Ireland’s business development officer for luxury, Amanda Horan.
“More luxury travellers are seeking experiences that offer private and exclusive escapes which are authentic and provide immersion in the local culture. Ireland can deliver this — along with access to stunning landscapes coupled with exceptional and personal service.”
Last month, a group of incentive buyers representing the luxury market in North America visited Ireland on a tailored visit designed by Custom Ireland, a destination management company.
Over half the buyers on the trip had never been to Ireland before and were given exposure to the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.
“These luxury agents were pleased to discover the many choices for luxurious accommodations, whether that be a city centre, estate, or castle property,” said Crothúr Murphy, chief executive of Custom Ireland.
Amongst the itineraries offered by the company are culinary exploration, gardens of Ireland, history of Christian heritage, and one inspired by Game of Thrones.
The recent International Congresses and Conventions Association rankings show Dublin having risen five places to 13th in the world for hosting conferences and conventions, with Ireland, overall, rising six places.
Dublin is in the top 20 cities worldwide, having hosted 118 international association conferences in 2016, with Ireland ranked a global 26th, hosting a total of 157 conferences in the same period.
The capital city’s performance placed it ahead of Copenhagen, Brussels, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Regional venues in Cork, Galway and Limerick all featured in the rankings, contributing to the country’s overall performance. Business and events form an important component of the overall tourism industry, generating above average yields, out-of-season traffic and regional growth.
Throughout 2016, Fáilte Ireland’s business and events team supported the conversion of more than €150m worth of business for current and future years, and additionally supported the conversion of €27.2m worth of business for regional Ireland. “We are certainly punching above our weight with Dublin and Ireland ranking ahead of larger and much more established destinations,” said Tourism Minister Patrick O’Donovan.
Despite the ongoing Brexit negotiations, strong British interest in Ireland’s business tourism product was evident at Fáilte Ireland’s annual ‘Meet Dublin in London’ event earlier this year.
It attracted its largest ever UK attendance, with more than 300 British events buyers taking advantage of the opportunity to meet directly with over 50 Irish hoteliers, business meeting venues and conference organisers to generate potential business worth €52m.
However, a note of caution toward possible upcoming budget changes has been sounded.
“As we plan for 2018, it is imperative that we keep a tight focus on competitiveness,” said Fáilte Ireland’s Paul Kelly.
“The Government has played its part in creating the right conditions for a competitive sector — particularly in terms of the highly effective Vat rate — but the industry must also step up to the plate and ensure an Irish visit remains good value.
“If we were to lose our reputation as a good value destination, it may take us years to recover it.”
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