Tourism Ireland Looks Back on a Successful Year for Overseas Tourism

Tourism Ireland today reflected on highlights of its promotional activity around the world this year. 2013 was a strong year for overseas tourism, with eight million visitors (+7%) contributing €3.64 billion (+6%) in revenue to the economy. Growth has come from all market areas, with the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Spain and Australia turning in record performances. Highlights have included The Gathering Ireland and Tourism Ireland’s ‘global greening’ initiative on St Patrick’s Day.


Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to report an increase of over +7% in visitor numbers, over 2012. Growth has been recorded from all our market areas and 2013 will be a record year for visitor numbers from North America, Germany, France and Spain, as well as from our long-haul markets including Australia and New Zealand. We are particularly pleased with the performance from the United States – by the end of 2013, we will have welcomed one million American visitors, spending US$1 billion. And the British market, which has proved challenging over the last few years for economic reasons, has also seen growth in visitor numbers in 2013 (+7%), which is also encouraging. In late 2013, we conducted our largest-ever sales mission to China; and we established representation in Brazil and Russia for the first time ever.”


At the beginning of this month, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans to promote Ireland in 2014 and beyond, with ambitious targets to welcome 8.9 million visitors per year by 2016, including almost 4.3 million holidaymakers (+16% over 2013). Commenting on the plans for the next three years, Niall Gibbons said: “Following a successful 2013, ambitious targets have been set for 2014-2016. Next year, we will place a major focus on promoting the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on major events like Limerick City of Culture, the ‘Grande Partenza’ of the Giro d’Italia and the Croke Park Classic, when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener. We will also build on the legacy of the Gathering, continuing to reach out to the Diaspora across the world.”




The Gathering Ireland 2013

The Gathering has been a major focus of Tourism Ireland’s promotions throughout 2013. It provided a tremendous ‘hook’ to shine a spotlight on Ireland around the world and certainly captured the imagination of people everywhere – including the worldwide media, who wrote and broadcast extensively about the initiative.

The Gathering legacy: the success of The Gathering has included enhanced engagement with Ireland’s Diaspora; in 2013, Tourism Ireland worked more closely than ever before with Ireland’s extended family overseas – from the Manchester Mayo Gathering, which brought over 1,000 visitors to Mayo in August, to various corporate leaders and decision-makers who brought their conferences to Ireland in 2013, including names like Spar International.


Overseas publicity

Working with overseas travel, lifestyle and special interest media is an important element of the overseas promotional programme. In 2013, more than 10 billion opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about the island of Ireland. Tourism Ireland estimates that this exposure is worth an estimated €262 million in equivalent advertising value.


Improved access

2013 saw a number of positive announcements on the important access front, including welcome new routes introduced by a range of carriers. Summer 2013 saw a +26% increase in the number of airline seats between the US and Ireland for the peak season (June-August), making it easier and more affordable than ever before for Americans to get to the island of Ireland.


And announcements – by both air and sea carriers – for 2014 augur well for the continued success of overseas tourism. These include:

–       new Aer Lingus flights from San Francisco, Toronto, Mainland Europe and Great Britain;

–       new Irish Ferries sailings from Holyhead and Cherbourg;

–       Ryanair’s expansion from Mainland Europe and Great Britain;

–       Westjet’s new flight from Newfoundland in Canada;

–       a new LD Lines sailing from St Nazaire (on the west coast of France) and Gijón (northern Spain) to Rosslare.





Launch of

In January, Tourism Ireland launched its new international website for tourism to the island of Ireland – The site was completely redeveloped, to deliver a transformed web experience for potential holidaymakers around the world. is now live in 22 markets, in seven languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Chinese; and a further three – Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Arabic – are currently in development and will be rolled out in early 2014. By the end of this year, will have attracted a record 13 million unique visits, 22% of which have come from mobile devices. There has also been a +21% increase in page views on the new site.


Ireland scoops travel award in China

Ireland was voted ‘most popular destination 2012’ at the high profile SPECIAL TRIP: THE WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS, in Shanghai. The annual awards are organised by the Oriental Morning Post, a popular daily newspaper in Shanghai with about 600,000 readers. The awards celebrate excellence in travel and the winners are voted by readers of the newspaper, as well as by travel specialists from around China, a market where Tourism Ireland has been working hard to build awareness of the island of Ireland as a premier holiday destination.



Comedian Andrew Maxwell stars in online film promoting The Gathering Ireland

Internationally-renowned Dublin comedian Andrew Maxwell starred in the first of five Tourism Ireland online videos to promote The Gathering Ireland 2013. Collectively, the five videos featuring Maxwell have been viewed by more than three million people around the world this year. The videos were designed to encourage people everywhere to share and re-share them with their friends on social networks, to get people talking about The Gathering and come home during 2013.


To Russia with love: tourism trade mission to Moscow and St Petersburg

Also in February, Tourism Ireland and Irish tourism operators travelled to Russia for a trade mission in Moscow and St Petersburg – in a bid to grow Ireland’s share of this rapidly-growing tourism market. The trade mission involved meetings and sales calls with top travel agents and tour operators from the main regions of Russia, as well as other Russian-speaking CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries like Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan –  encouraging those influential tour operators and travel agents to include the island of Ireland in future holiday programmes.



‘Global Greening’ season

Tourism Ireland’s annual ‘global greening’ initiative for St Patrick’s Day was bigger and better than ever before in 2013 – generating over €10 million worth of positive publicity for Ireland across the world. This year, an ancient wonder of the world – the Pyramids of Giza – and a modern wonder of the world – the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil – went green for the first time ever on 17 March, joining a host of other major landmarks and iconic sites around the world. English business magnate Sir Richard Branson even joined in the fun – dyeing his beard (and eyelashes!) green and tweeting the resulting pictures to his three million followers!



Tom Cruise – proud to be Irish!

In April, Hollywood actor and producer Tom Cruise stopped off in Dublin on the European leg of his tour to promote the film ‘Oblivion’ and, while here, discovered that the truth of his Irish family history is more amazing than fiction! His Irish ancestors were identified as knights, rebels and heroes in a family history that stretches back 800 years. The Tom Cruise genealogy story made headlines all over the world, encouraging those with Irish connections to follow in Cruise’s footsteps and to visit in 2013, to learn more about their heritage and explore the places their ancestors came from.



Cork hosts Travel Classics writers’ conference

Tourism Ireland welcomed some of the most influential and prominent American travel and lifestyle journalists to Ireland, when the renowned Travel Classics writers’ conference 2013 took place in Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, Co Cork. The conference brought together celebrated commissioning editors and their travel writers from a wide range of high profile publications – including Condé Nast TravelerNational Geographic TravelerHarper’s Bazaar, AFAR, Saveur andCoastal Living – all of which reach hundreds of thousands of readers across North America, as well as globally.




Fermanagh welcomes world leaders for the G8 Summit

The arrival of Barack Obama, David Cameron and other world leaders for the G8 Summit offered an unprecedented opportunity to showcase Fermanagh, the North West and the island of Ireland – through the international media – to potential visitors across the world. Tourism Ireland’s promotional programme and publicity drive was stepped up considerably before, during and after the G8 Summit to capitalise on the opportunity.


And Michelle Obama’s visit to Ireland, with her daughters Sasha and Malia, also generated huge positive publicity about Ireland. In total, more than 6,200 articles in 2,077 publications in 88 countries mentioned Ireland and the visit of the First Lady and her daughters. American and German publications combined accounted for over 68% of the total coverage.



Bollywood producers and scouts check out Ireland

Building on the success of Ek Tha Tiger in 2012, some of Bollywood’s top names travelled to Ireland on a scouting mission in July, to explore numerous locations and scenic spots around Ireland for their next big Bollywood blockbuster. The group visited locations in Dublin (including Dublin Castle, Trinity College, Temple Bar and the Ha’penny Bridge); the West of Ireland (including Ashford Castle, the Cliffs of Moher and Dingle Penninsula); and Northern Ireland (including Titanic Belfast and the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge). Tourism Ireland in India worked closely with the Irish Film Board and Northern Ireland Screen to secure the visit. In 2012, the Bollywood film shot on location in Dublin – Ek Tha Tiger – became one of the biggest-grossing movies ever in India and was seen by an estimated 100 million cinema-goers.



More than 11 million Americans see Kerry in American Vogue

The September edition of American Vogue magazine hit the newsstands in August – featuring a 16-page spread, shot in Kerry by world-famous photographer Annie Leibovitz and titled ‘Wild Irish Rose’.  The magazine has more than 11 million readers – providing invaluable positive exposure for Ireland, showcasing the dramatic beauty of our landscape to potential holidaymakers and helping to position Ireland as a highly desirable and fashionable place to visit.


Canadian ‘message in a bottle’ girls visit Ireland

The two Canadian girls behind the message in a bottle which washed up in Co Waterford in October 2012 arrived in Ireland, as guests of Tourism Ireland. The bottle had been tossed into the Atlantic Ocean in Canada, in June 2004, with a message that included the girls’ first names as well as a plea to contact them if the bottle was ever found. Last year, schoolboy Oisín Millea found the mystery message in a bottle. Tourism Ireland in Toronto tracked down the girls through traditional and social media and invited them to enjoy a week-long visit to Ireland. The heart-warming story was covered extensively by the media in Canada – providing fantastic, positive publicity about Ireland and the friendliness and hospitality for which we are renowned.


Top Chinese travel blogger pays a visit

The number one travel blogger in China – Mr FAN Yibo (aka Mr Colorful Map!) – spent a week touring Ireland in August. Mr Yibo is hugely influential – his blog has received 77+ million clicks to date and he has more than 360,000 fans on Sina Weibo (one of the most popular social networking sites in China). This was his first visit to Ireland and his action-packed itinerary included Dublin, Wicklow, Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, as well as some of our other major attractions like the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, the National Park in Killarney and Blarney Castle.



Autumn campaign with a festival focus

Tourism Ireland launched a €19 million promotional blitz in September, to boost late-season travel to Ireland during the last few months of The Gathering. The campaign highlighted the many festivals and events taking place right around the island – from the Dublin Festival Season to the Belfast Festival at Queens, Wexford Festival Opera, Westport Food Festival, Waterford Harvest Food Festival, Cork Jazz Festival and the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival.


‘Shenanigans’ promotion targets 1+ million young ‘social energisers’ in GB

Tourism Ireland in Great Britain teamed up with Bestival – the boutique music festival on the Isle of Wight – and popular radio station XFM for a promotion with a difference. The initiative targeted Tourism Ireland’s new audience of ‘social energisers’ in Britain, in a bid to highlight Ireland as an exciting, vibrant and modern destination and to get that young, fun-loving audience to look at a city break in Dublin or Belfast with fresh eyes. The promotion involved various elements – including a mini-Ireland immersive theatre experience, called ‘Shenanigans’, to grab the attention of the 55,000 festival-goers and give them a flavour of Ireland with a whirlwind ‘tour’ through Dublin and Belfast.



Ireland has the X-Factor in Italy

Ireland featured on this year’s X-Factor in Italy when one of the show’s judges, singer-songwriter Mika, brought his group of singing hopefuls to Slane Castle for the ‘home visits’ round of the popular reality TV show. The 25-minute Ireland ‘home visit’ featured lots of landmarks around Dublin – including Trinity College, Temple Bar, Merrion Square, St Patrick’s Cathedral and Windmill Lane. Viewers also got a glimpse of Malahide beach, as Mika temporarily escaped the stress of his arduous task of selecting the best contestants! The episode was viewed by more than 2 million people across Italy.


Tourism Ireland – over 1.9 million Facebook fans and number one on YouTube

A new report in October placed Tourism Ireland at the top of a European league table for national tourism organisations and their use of digital marketing. The Digital Tourism Brand Index is a benchmark report which measures 45 national tourism organisations in Europe and evaluates their use of digital marketing to promote their destinations. The Index ranked Tourism Ireland in the number one spot for its use of Facebook (the organisation now has more than 1.9 million fans), the most popular and influential consumer-facing social media platform used by national tourism organisations. Tourism Ireland was also ranked in the number one spot for its use of YouTube, with more than 10 million video views; and number three on Twitter.



Tourism Ireland leads largest-ever sales mission to China

The largest-ever Tourism Ireland sales mission to China took place in November, with 20 Irish tourism enterprises travelling to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – to meet and do business with more than 450 top travel agents and tour operators, as well as key travel and lifestyle journalists, in the three cities.



Ireland named ‘best tourism destination’ in American travel magazine

For the second year running, Ireland was named ‘best tourism destination’ by frequent travellers, at an award ceremony in December, in Los Angeles, attended by travel industry leaders. In a survey conducted during 2013, more than 22,000 readers of American travel magazine Global Traveler named Ireland their favourite tourism destination overall. The magazine asked its business and luxury traveller readers to select their favourite destination, airline and other travel-related products and services – and Ireland took the number one spot for ‘best tourism destination’.

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