Ireland has been positively rebranded as a welcoming LGBT holiday destination and there will be a huge boost for the hotel industry thanks to the gay marriage referendum, the head of Tourism Ireland said.
Niall Gibbons said LGBT tourists were typically wealthy and travelled a lot, presenting a lucrative opportunity.
“The referendum publicity was absolutely incredible. I thought it would be good, but it was beyond our wildest dreams: to be on the headline piece of every main news channel in all our main markets. Generally you only get that for the wrong reason. But to have it there for the right reason was fantastic.
“We put out a campaign straight away looking to the LGBT wedding and honeymoon sector and that has been very well received internationally. It is a very strong market. To be on the likes of NBC, ABC, Fox in the States, and in the UK on The Guardian, the Telegraph, BBC, UTV. To be the lead item in a good news story was absolutely incredibly positive and it was all well received.”
Speaking at a Shannon Chamber of Commerce lunch in the Radisson Hotel, he said the LGBT sector spent €183bn on world travel.
“It is a very destination-savvy sector, tends to be double income, mainly no kids, but not always. I think there are opportunities for the industry in Ireland.”
While the publicity has been great, he said we have to work at it and this is why Tourism Ireland put out an immediate campaign to attract LGBT weddings and honeymoon couples.
“The sector is in its infancy, you must remember that legalising gay weddings only happened in 2011 in New York and in the first year afterwards the [tourism] spend in that sector in New York was $250m and the tax return to the State was $20m. So we are in our infancy and we have a lot to learn, but there has been a good take-up and we were very impressed by the reaction here in the tourism sector and there is an opportunity for the industry to grasp.”
Suzanne Boda, senior executive with American Airlines, said percentage-wise Ireland gets more US visitors than most other countries.
“What I would say to anyone involved in Irish tourism is to concentrate on the quality experience you get here. I cannot overstate the importance of how good the food is here, and equally or more important, the genuine hospitality offered wherever one goes in Ireland,” she said.
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