In Ireland British tourists are dropping, but marketing policies are attracting new market segments

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s “Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2017”, last year Ireland welcomed almost 10 million international tourists and the Country’s GDP benefitted of a direct contribution of tourism of 4.9bn euros, namely 1,9% of total GDP. This is expected to grow up to 7.3bn by 2027, namely 2,2% of GDP. The total contribution, including the indirect and induced ones, was 15.1bn euros, namely 5,8% of GDP. As reported by Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, Great Britain is the main origin market of tourism flows, followed by France, Germany and Italy.  As highlighted by the first figures of the Central Statistics Office regarding 2017, the number of British tourists is falling (-10,7% yoy), probably due to Brexit effects. As reported by Failte Ireland in its “Tourism Barometer”, 26% of tourism operators have already been affected by the referendum consequences, in particular hotels (44%) and restaurants (36%). Notwithstanding, the number of USA tourists is increasing (+26%), along visitors coming from France (+8,6%), Spain (+10,4%) and from Australia and emerging markets (+17%). As reported by the WTTC, 79,1% of the Travel & Tourism direct contribution in 2016 was represented by the international tourists’ expense. This Country is characterised by a strong leisure demand. Notwithstanding, 29,5% of direct contribution to Travel & Tourism in 2016 came from the business segment. Failte Ireland is the designed body to develop this segment, and promotes the organisation of MICE events in the Country. As reported by the Irish Times, in 2016 only the business segment regarding overseas markets brought a 700mn euros benefit to the Country’s economy. According to the International Congresses and Conventions Associations, Ireland ranks 13th in the world for the number of MICE events.

As underlined by the World Economic Forum’s “Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017”, Ireland ranks 23th out of 136 analysed Countries for tourism competitiveness. This positive placement is probably due also to the Government policies which prioritise the tourism sector (7th), the efficient marketing and branding campaigns (3rd), the strong international openness (7th), the high number of air departures and arrivals (1st) and the tourism services and infrastructure (15th). In addition, the Country can count on a particular attention paid to the sustainable development of the tourism industry (12th). Weaker points of the destinations are the price competitiveness (121st) and the relative difficulty in obtaining a visa (105th).

Ireland focuses on the Government policies for the tourism sector development and on the destination promotional campaigns. Every year, Tourism Ireland promotes several information initiatives about the most important Irish cities and addressed to the tourism operators of the various target markets. The Government also published the Tourism Action Plan 2016 – 2018, specifying the public and private bodies which are appointed to implement the activities. The Plan aims to train professional figures in the tourism sector, to enhance the number and quality of accommodation facilities (and to regulate sharing economy activities), to promote the destination to overseas markets. Moreover, the Plan expects to invest in the improvement of the in-destination experience of tourists through the promotion of festivals and events, in the contribution of sport to tourism with the proposal of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup and by implementing technologies to support tourism operators, such as the allocation of Wi-Fi hot spots in remote areas to encourage tourists to promote Ireland through social medias. Also the development plan “People, Place and Policy: Growing Tourism to 2025” was publishes by the Government to define further guidelines for the sustainable development of the Country as a tourism destination. The objectives of the Plan are increasing the revenue from overseas tourism flows, reaching 10 million overseas tourists, and enhancing the number of employed people in the tourism sector.

As it has already happened in other destinations, also Ireland is in the middle of the film tourism phenomenon. The famous series “Game of Thrones” has already increased the Country popularity, and the Government has just signed the second agreement with HBO. In particular, Chinese tourism flows have been attracted by the mountain called Skellig Micheal, which appears in some Star Wars episodes. Maybe also for these reasons, Tourism Ireland is dealing with China to establish a direct flight from Dublin to Beijing.

According to the UK Foreign Travel Advice, Ireland is a safe destination, even if it recommends to pay attention to the general risk deriving from international terrorism. In fact, as reported by Failte Ireland, 61% of tourism operators feels that the Country’s reputation as a safe place is having a positive influence on their activity.

At Twissen we observed that Ireland, even if is partially affected by Brexit consequences, is starting to attract new market segments thanks to the strong destination branding policies. The favourable Government policies also offer developing possibilities in the MICE sector, in particular to attract extra-continental segments. Successful film productions enhance the popularity of the destination at a global level.