Tourism Ireland’s Review Of 2011

2011: The Year When Overseas Tourism Returned to Growth


Following some of the most difficult years for travel and tourism, the island of Ireland has seen signs of a welcome return to growth in overseas visitors in 2011. By the end of this year, Tourism Ireland expects that almost 7.4 million people will have visited the island of Ireland from around the world, yielding around €3.4 billion in revenue, an increase of +7% and +11% respectively on 2010.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “Despite the faltering recovery in the global economy, the travel and tourism sector has been fairly resilient throughout 2011. Of particular interest are the facts that we have grown market share from all top markets, including Great Britain – our largest and most important tourism market; and that interest in holidaying here is strong in those markets.” The most recent Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index (NBI 2011) shows that Ireland ranks 7th (out of 50 countries) as an aspirational destination in the US and France; we rank 9th in Britain and 11th in Germany. Ireland scores particularly highly in categories like “makes me feel welcome” and “rich in natural beauty”.


Niall Gibbons continued: “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 2011-2012 taking place in Galway and the annual Notre Dame-Navy American football game coming to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. In the second half of the year, Tourism Ireland will promote The Gathering 2013 to the 70 million people across the world who feel linked by family, friends or otherwise with Ireland.”

The economic turmoil of recent weeks has brought some increased uncertainty to travel and tourism. Shorter trips and late booking patterns continue to be prevalent. Given the scale of the ongoing turbulence facing the global economy and its impact on consumer confidence, travel and tourism is facing a cautious passage into 2012. Nonetheless, Tourism Ireland’s goal is to build on this year’s return to growth in overseas tourism and to welcome over 9 million visitors to the island by 2015, exceeding the record year for tourism of 2007.

Some of the Highlights of 2011 for overseas tourism

  • MARCH: The World Turned Green on St Patrick’s Day,

reaching 250m potential visitors

In March, Tourism Ireland arranged for major landmarks and iconic sites around the globe to ‘go green’ as the sun set on 17 March, kicking off a major €28 million spring promotional drive to restore overseas tourism to growth.

The first celebrations kicked off in New Zealand, when the Sky Tower in Auckland was bathed in green light. The ‘green wave’ continued, with Burj Al Arab in Dubai and Table Mountain in South Africa next to go green; then it was the turn of the Moulin Rouge in Paris (which temporarily became the ‘Moulin Vert’!), the Puerta de Alcalá monument in Madrid, the London Eye and the Nelson Monument in Edinburgh; followed a few hours later by the Empire State Building in New York and the CN Tower in Toronto. The ‘greening’ of icons captured the imagination of media everywhere, reaching some 250 million potential visitors around the world with positive messages and excellent reasons to visit Ireland.

  • MARCH: Sydney Commuters Left Reeling


Unsuspecting commuters passing through Sydney’s Central Station on St Patrick’s Day were in for a surprise when Tourism Ireland’s flashmob of Irish dancers brought the busy station to a standstill. The performance was posted on YouTube where it has been viewed by over 2 million people around the world to date. It was also rated one of the world’s top branded viral videos by marketing magazine Contagious. The magazine rates the hottest marketing videos around the globe each month and Tourism Ireland’s flashmob video came in at number five in the ‘ten most shared videos’ list in March, which included videos produced by big global brands like Volkswagen and adidas.


In April, Tourism Ireland launched ‘Mission Ireland’, an innovative social media campaign to boost visitor numbers from Germany, our third-largest market. Popular German blogger Kai Müller began a month-long journey, which saw him visit almost every corner of the island, as voted for by his online community of followers in Germany. During his time here, he created a travel-blog about his experiences, posting on a specially created website as well as on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Introducing ‘crowd-sourcing’ for the first time in a Tourism Ireland campaign, each of Kai’s destinations was decided by his followers, who voted for him to complete a variety of missions and challenges.

  • MAY: Historic State Visits Provided Major Tourism

Boost and €300M of Positive Publicity

The historic visits of Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama in May were great news for everyone in the tourism industry, providing unprecedented opportunities to showcase the island of Ireland to a huge audience of potential holidaymakers in Britain, the US and across the globe. Both visits gave Tourism Ireland superb platforms for marketing campaigns covering areas like literature, heritage, genealogy and food. The enthusiastic welcome which Queen Elizabeth and President Obama received alerted prospective visitors to the sort of warm welcome they too can expect.

Tourism Ireland’s ongoing publicity drive in Great Britain and the US was stepped up considerably – before during and after the visits. A large media contingent travelled here to cover the visits, bringing the stories to millions of people around the world. Positive publicity for Ireland worth almost €300 million was generated through 38,000 articles and broadcasts in 110 countries around the globe.


Tourism Ireland’s golf tourism promotions received a significant boost with Rory McIlroy’s historic US Open win at Congressional in June, followed soon afterwards by Darren Clarke’s great British Open victory at Royal St George’s. Their wins placed our great golf experience in the global publicity spotlight and Tourism Ireland rolled out a ‘Home of Champions’ golf tourism campaign, worth €2.2 million, to capitalise on the huge international media interest in both Rory’s and Darren’s successes.

Other fantastic news on the golf front this year included the selection of Ireland as the host country for the hugely popular American TV series Big Break, which airs to 83 million households across the US on the Golf Channel – thanks to Tourism Ireland’s advertising partnership with the Golf Channel, and NBC Sports. Filming for the 16th season of the top-rated programme took place in Ireland in the spring and aired this autumn across the US, with an incredibly publicity value of more than $12 million in media exposure.

In September, the Solheim Cup took place at Killeen Castle in Co Meath and Tourism Ireland ensured it featured extensively in our media, travel trade and consumer promotions around the world, using the event as a ‘hook’ to draw attention to our world-class golf.

  • JULY: NEW Visa Waiver Scheme for developing markets

proves its worth

In July, the Government’s visa waiver scheme came into effect, making it easier than ever before for tourists from new and developing markets, like China and India, to visit Ireland; the scheme is encouraging tourists visiting the UK to come and visit Ireland without the cost or hassle of applying for a separate visa. While Tourism Ireland is working hard in the traditional markets of Great Britain and the US, the organisation is also very active in markets like India and China to raise the profile of the island of Ireland as a premier holiday and business tourism destination. Already there is evidence of top tour operators in new and developing markets programming Ireland for the first time in 2012, who previously only featured Great Britain in their programmes.


In September, Tourism Ireland reached half a million fans on Facebook, making it the third most popular tourism board in the world on the popular social networking site, after Australia and the UK. By year end, the organisation had overtaken the UK, to take the number two slot in the world – with the grand total of over 562,000 fans across 16 markets – including GB, the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Nordic Region, Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, India, Japan, New Zealand, Poland and the Gulf Countries.

As part of its overall marketing strategy, Tourism Ireland is using social media to inspire potential holidaymakers to come and visit the island of Ireland. Word of mouth is particularly influential when it comes to travel decisions, with one in two visitors (52%) saying personal recommendations influenced their choice of Ireland. Given that word of mouth is increasingly carried online, Tourism Ireland is working hard to grow the online tourism conversation about Ireland around the world and to stimulate positive word of mouth online about holidays here.

  • OCTOBER: €9m winter marketing blitz

A €9 million tourism marketing blitz involving significant matching private sector funding to boost visitor numbers to Ireland was announced by Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar, in October. A series of joint co-operative marketing campaigns between Tourism Ireland and private operators is promoting Ireland to around 20 million potential overseas visitors until the end of 2011.Tourism Ireland’s funding for the campaigns is supported by revenues from the air travel tax, while matching funding is provided by partner companies including Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Aer Arann, overseas airlines including Emirates, Etihad, US Airways, online travel agents, Irish Ferries, Stena and other ferry companies.


Also in October, Tourism Ireland scooped the top award for ‘Best Use of Social Media’ at the prestigious Travolution awards in London, beating off strong competition in the same category from the likes of Virgin Atlantic, Cunard and Radisson Edwardian Hotels. Tourism Ireland’s winning, Twitter-led campaign was called My Irish 140. It aimed to connect with the Diaspora throughout Britain, encouraging tweeters with Irish ancestry and those who felt a connection with Ireland to explore and talk about it in their Twitter stream.

  • NOVEMBER: Belfast hits the high notes

The biggest music event ever staged in Northern Ireland – the MTV Europe Music Awards – took place in Belfast in November, and Tourism Ireland undertook a busy promotional programme, to maximise the huge tourism potential of the high profile event, targeting over 3 million music fans in key tourism markets – including Great Britain, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, the Nordic region and Belgium. Given the massive exposure of the MTV EMAs through the media right across the world – it was broadcast to an estimated 632 million homes in over 150 countries – this high profile awards ceremony provided Tourism Ireland with a fantastic opportunity to highlight Belfast and Northern Ireland on the international stage.


In December, Tourism Ireland scored a hat trick when it scooped three awards at the prestigious 2011 DMA Awards in London. Beating off stiff competition, Tourism Ireland won awards for its innovative social media campaign, called “Nick and Sam’s Ireland Road Trip”, in the following categories:

– Gold: in the travel and holidays category;

– Bronze: for best use of social media;

– Bronze: for best integrated campaign.

Tourism Ireland’s winning campaign set out to showcase the richness of a holiday here among online audiences around Britain, allowing them to experience the island of Ireland online and prompting them to then come and experience it for themselves.

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