The Government has launched a €12 million campaign, the largest such campaign of its type ever conducted by Tourism Ireland, aimed at boosting the Irish industry over the course of the next three months.
Amidst the expected chaos of whatever form Brexit takes the tourism industry is proving especially vulnerable even before Britain actually exits the EU.
With sterling in freefall in recent times Ireland has become both a less attractive destination for British travellers and a direct competitor with the British industry itself, where the depreciated currency has rendered Britain a more affordable option for holidaymakers.
The new campaign will “incorporate a major focus on attracting visitors to more rural areas and our less visited attractions and locations” according to the Department of Transport, Tourism, and Sport.
In actuality that will see major media campaigns conducted across the airwaves and social media, particularly in the US and Britain - two of Ireland’s largest catchment areas for tourist business.
The campaign will also see its message ramped up by major transport carriers, including Aer Lingus, Ryanair, and Stena Lines, while the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan will see Ireland promoted as a holiday destination with Japanese tour operators at two events there in advance of Ireland’s first match on September 28.
Tourism Minister Shane Ross declared himself “delighted” to be launching the campaign, one which he said will ensure the industry “continues to grow in a manner that is sustainable, from an environmental, economic and social perspective”.
“It is essential that we continue to promote and expand our tourism offering around the world in the face of challenges such as Brexit,” Mr Ross said.
The campaign’s large financial outlay is necessitated by the “choppy waters” Ireland is currently navigating in the context of Brexit, Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, told the Irish Examiner.
“We’re putting Ireland before more eyeballs than ever before,” Mr Gibbons said, adding that the off-peak season at which this campaign is aimed delivers 30% of Ireland’s tourism revenues on an annual basis.
He further reiterated that the cost of a No Deal Brexit to the Irish tourist industry has been estimated at €390 million per annum. He said that the extent to which tourist influx from Britain has stabilised in the last 18 months, after falling dramatically following the Brexit vote in June 2016, has been a “surprise”, but that nevertheless the industry is expected to come under additional pressure as the exit deadline of October 31 grows closer.
Meanwhile, the cross-border British Irish Chamber of Commerce stated that the new campaign is exemplary of the “tremendous job” Tourism Ireland is doing in identifying Brexit risk spots.
“This challenges Ireland to be more competitive, and in the shoulder time at the end of the year encourages British tourists to come here. The current political situation is highly charged with a great deal of uncertainty, and the risks are very high right now,” John McGrane, chief executive at the Chamber, said.
Nevertheless, Mr McGrane said the hope remains that a 'hard Brexit' can be avoided: “We would hope that the UK leadership’s decision-making will be more in tune with the majority of the population who do not want a hard Brexit."