Ireland among top ‘luxury tourism’ locations

OUR financial reputation may be in tatters and our collective confidence is on the floor, but that hasn’t stopped Ireland from being named as one of the world’s best “luxury travel” destinations for next year.

A major online travel magazine focussed solely on “providing ultimate inspiration for discerning travellers” has placed Ireland among the elite locations to visit for the richest tourists on the planet.

In its shortlist of the must-see luxurious holiday hot-spots for 2012, said this country is on a par with Brazil, Congo, Colombia, Jordan, Laos, Tasmania and Thailand for those who can afford to come.

And while the website — which is an invitation-only affiliation linked to more than 7,500 travel advisors in 20 countries across North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand — may not bring in hordes of holiday makers, those that do come are likely to spend thousands of euro on their dream trip.

According to the website’s top eight must-visit luxury locations round-up, Ireland should be considered for its “rolling green countryside”, “world class golf courses and resorts” and “a Robin Hood-esque feel amongst crumbling medieval castles”.

The close proximity to the London Olympics next August, the website said, means Ireland will also “be bulging with Olympic enthusiasts”.

True to its name, the website has recommended prices of between $2,000 (€1,500) and $6,000 (€4,600) for week-to-fortnight long visits to the countries that have been short-listed.

However, even among the more mainstream tourist industry, it seems those long spoken of but rarely seen green shoots of recovery are making a long-overdue appearance.

Announcing its sector review for 2011 yesterday, Tourism Ireland said despite the recession heralding “some of the most difficult years for travel and tourism” there are “signs of a welcome return to growth in oversees visitors”.

By New Year’s Eve, the tourism body said it expects that almost 7.4 million people will have come on trips to either the Republic or the North, bringing in approximately €3.4 billion.

These figures, the group said, are up 7% and 11% respectively on 2010.

“Despite the faltering recovery in the global economy, the travel and tourism sector has been fairly resilient throughout 2011,” said Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons.

“As we look to 2012, we are very much aware that the economic landscape presents a challenging environment for travel.

“However, in spite of the uncertain economic climate we have a lot going for us next year, with major events like the grand finale of the Volvo Ocean race taking place in Galway and the annual Notre Dame-Navy American football game coming to Dublin’s Aviva stadium,” he said.

Most popular attractions

1. Dublin Zoo — 963,053 visitors

2. Guinness Storehouse — 930,000

3. National Gallery of Ireland — 736,855

4. National Aquatic Centre — 721,871

5. Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience — 720,574

6. National Botanic Gardens — 533,120

7. Book of Kells — 469,674

8. Irish Museum of Modern Art — 408,000

9. Fota Wildlife Park — 377,004

10. Blarney Castle — 308,000

* Rankings provided by Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.Figures relate to 2010 as exact 2011 visitor levels have yet to be finalised.


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