Tourism Ireland looks back on a record year for Irish tourism

2015 has been the best year ever for overseas tourism to Ireland, with about 7.9 million visitors (+11% over 2014) contributing more than €4.2 billion (+16%) in revenue to the economy. Growth has come from all markets, with theUnited States, Canada, Germany, France, Spain and Australia all turning in record performances once again this year. Great Britain, our largest tourism market, has also seen strong growth of +10% this year.


Latest figures from the CSO (Central Statistics Office) indicate that holiday visitors from overseas grew by +19% in the first nine months of 2015, an extra half a million holidaymakers. And, more importantly for the Irish economy, revenue from overseas visitors to Ireland grew by +18% during this period, an additional half a billion euro compared with the first nine months of 2014.


Tourism Ireland today reflected on highlights of its promotional activity around the world in 2015. These haveincluded the Wild Atlantic Way, Game of Thrones, the 150th anniversary of the birth of WB Yeats and its ‘Ireland says I do’ campaign, as well as Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative on St Patrick’s Day, which was bigger than ever before this year.


Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Throughout 2015, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. A major focus of our activity was the Wild Atlantic Way; other important themes have included ID2015 (Year of Irish Design) and Yeats2015.”


At the end of November, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans to promote Ireland in 2016 and beyond, with ambitious targets to welcome a record 8.2 million visitors to Ireland next year.

Commenting on the plans for 2016, Niall Gibbons said: “Following a record 2015, ambitious targets have been set for 2016 and beyond. Next year, we will unveil Ireland’s Ancient East around the world, while continuing to place a major focus on the Wild Atlantic Way. We will also highlight Dublin, in particular capitalising on the recent inclusion of Dublin at number three in the world in the prestigious ‘Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2016’. This week’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens – which will feature Skellig Michael – also presents Tourism Ireland with a truly unique opportunity to highlight the South West and Ireland in 2016.”





The Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way has been a major focus of Tourism Ireland’s promotions throughout 2015. It has been promoted across a range of platforms including TV, print and online advertising; on and through social media channels; at major international consumer and trade fairs; through familiarisation visits for influential travel agents, tour operators, as well as travel and lifestyle journalists and bloggers from around the world; and through Tourism Ireland’s promotional material – its market guides and brochures.


Overseas publicity

Working with overseas travel, lifestyle and special interest media is an important element of the overseas promotional programme. In 2015, thousands of 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 €320 million in equivalent advertising value.


Improved access

2015 saw a number of really positive announcements on the important access front, including new routes introduced by a range of carriers (e.g. Aer Lingus from Washington DC to Dublin and Transavia from Paris to Dublin). An estimated 492,000 direct, one-way airline seats to Ireland were available each week during summer 2015, a +9% increase in capacity over summer 2014.


And announcements for 2016 augur well for the continued success of overseas tourism. These include three new Aer Lingus transatlantic flights to Dublin from Los Angeles, Hartford (Connecticut) and Newark (New Jersey). Aer Lingus will also launch services from Pisa and Montpelier to Dublin and from Düsseldorf to Cork. Other new routes in the pipeline include Flybe flights from Edinburgh and Birmingham to Ireland West Airport Knock; CityJet’s flights from Nantes and La Rochelle to Cork; an Iberia Express flight between Madrid and Cork; Air Canada rouge from Vancouver to Dublin; as well as a recently launched Ryanair flight from Amsterdam to Dublin and an Aer Lingus Regional service from Edinburgh to Shannon.






Ireland on the menu on Italian TV

Images of Cork and Kinsale were beamed into the homes of more than 1 million Italians in January, when an episode of MasterChef Italia – filmed here in summer 2014 – aired on Italian TV channel, Sky Uno. Ireland was chosen for its exceptional, fresh produce – particularly our beef – as well as our spectacular scenery, which provided such a wonderful backdrop for the show.



Tourism Ireland sponsors Ireland team for Cricket World Cup

Tourism Ireland sponsored the Ireland team for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, which took place in Australia and New Zealand. The Cricket World Cup was one of the world’s biggest sporting events of the year, in terms of its global viewing audience; it was televised in 220 countries, to around 2.5 billion viewers. Tourism Ireland leveraged the huge, positive media exposure to support tourism growth from key cricket-loving countries – with its logo prominently displayed on the team’s playing shirt and training kit; the logo also featured prominently on the website and social media platforms of Cricket Ireland. Video footage of the island of Ireland, including interviews with some of the players describing their favourite place to holiday, was shared by Tourism Ireland on its website and with itsFacebook fans and Twitter followers.


Selling Ireland to 250 top international buyers at inaugural ExploreGB

More than 250 top international buyers from 37 different countries, including Australia, China, India, Japan, Brazil and Russia, heard all about the island of Ireland at the inaugural ExploreGB event, VisitBritain’s new flagship international event which took place in February, at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire. The two-day workshop involved a series of pre-scheduled, one-to-one appointments – showcasing Britain and the island of Ireland to a large audience of international buyers and helping to deliver additional itineraries and brochure pages featuring both destinations.


‘Jump into Ireland’ sales blitz kicks off in the United States

Tourism Ireland’s 2015 series of ‘Jump into Ireland’ sales blitzes across the United States kicked off in February – in Washington DC, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Subsequent ‘Jump into Ireland’ events took place during the year in Atlanta (Georgia), Charlotte and Tampa (Florida), Minneapolis (Minnesota), Denver (Colorado), Dallas (Texas) and in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara (California). The ‘Jump’ schedule included a B2B event in each city for the Irish delegations, showcasing the island of Ireland to the influential American travel professionals in attendance, via a travel TV show format. Each event also included an opportunity for networking with influential travel and lifestyle journalists.



Global Greening season

Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day was bigger and better than ever before in 2015– generating more than €10 million worth of positive publicity for Ireland across the world. This year, the Colosseum in Rome, the Sacré Cœur basilica in Paris and Edinburgh Castle were illuminated in green for the first time ever to celebrate St Patrick. Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative has truly gone from strength to strength, with more than 180 landmark buildings and iconic sites around the world taking part this year, including the Great Wall of China, Niagara Falls, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and the famous ‘Welcome’ sign in Las Vegas.



Winter is coming! Tourism Ireland rolls out major Game of Thrones campaign

In April, Tourism Ireland joined forces once again with HBO and its smash hit TV series Game of Thrones, to promote Northern Ireland around the world. Timed to coincide with the return of the long-awaited fifth season of Game of Thrones, the campaign ran for 12 weeks in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia – leveraging the success of the HBO brand and the huge global popularity of Game of Thrones and its strong associations with Northern Ireland.


New ITV ‘Wild Ireland’ series showcases Wild Atlantic Way to millions of Britons

In April, a new series called Wild Ireland began on ITV. Presented by Northern Ireland-born celebrity Christine Bleakley, the six-part series showcased the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way to millions of viewers across Britain. Wild Ireland saw Christine Bleakley explore the west coast, from Malin Head to Mizen Head, meeting lots of fascinating characters along the way and discovering the spectacular landscape of this part of Ireland.


New online film featuring Michael Gambon celebrates Yeats2015

A new online film, specially created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of WB Yeats, was unveiled in April, at the launch of the Yeats Day programme for 2015. Tourism Ireland supported the production of the short film featuring Irish-born actor Sir Michael Gambon reading Yeats’ poem The Song of Wandering Aengus. This year marks 150 years since the birth of world-renowned poet and Nobel laureate, WB Yeats, so Yeats2015 has been a key theme for Tourism Ireland in its promotions around the world.


New strategy to boost tourism from Australia

Also in April, a new three-year plan was unveiled by Tourism Ireland, setting out challenging and ambitious targets which will see the number of Australian visitors to the island of Ireland grow by +20% to almost 220,000 per year by the end of 2017. The Australian outbound travel market in general has seen remarkable growth in recent years and 2015 looks set to be another record year for visitor numbers to Ireland from Australia.



Ireland says ‘I do’

Following the ‘yes’ vote in the Marriage Referendum on 22 May, Tourism Ireland unveiled its “Ireland says I do” campaign – targeting the LGBT community for weddings and honeymoons in Ireland. The campaign was rolled out in nine markets – including Britain, the United States, Canada, the Nordic region, Australia, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. It included advertising on Facebook directing people to a specially-created section on Tourism Ireland’s website,, highlighting great wedding venues and “dreamily romantic locations to tie the knot”, as well as cool bars and clubs. It also featured a brand new video showcasing our spectacular scenery and The Outing, the world’s first-ever LGBT matchmaking festival, an offshoot of the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival which takes place in October.


VIP visits provide tourism boost

The visit by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall provided a unique opportunity to convince potential holidaymakers in Britain, our largest tourism market, to visit the island of Ireland during 2015. A large media contingent travelled to Ireland with the royal couple to cover the visit, bringing the story to millions of people in Britain and elsewhere around the world. During their time here, the royal couple enjoyed our wonderful scenery, culture and hospitality. Their programme included a celebration of Irish crafts, music and dance at NUI Galway as well as visits to the Burren, the grave of WB Yeats at Drumcliffe and the wonderful gardens at Mount Stewart. The visit byChinese Premier HE Mr Li Keqiang was also a wonderful opportunity to showcase Ireland to a huge audience of potential holidaymakers in China. The warm welcome extended to Mr Li helped reinforce the image of Ireland as an exceptionally friendly and welcoming destination, alerting Chinese travellers to the sort of warm welcome they too can expect.


Ireland ranked number 5 in the world for tourism marketing and branding

Also in May, the World Economic Forum announced the results of its 2015 global ‘Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index’ (TTCI), with some positive rankings for Ireland. Overall, Ireland ranked at number 19 in the world, out of 141 countries. In the ‘effectiveness of marketing and branding to attract tourists’ category, Ireland moved from number nine (when the index was last compiled in 2013) to number five in the world – ahead of France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy.



Sales mission to China

Tourism Ireland’s 2015 sales mission to China saw a delegation of 14 tourism enterprises from the island of Irelandmeet and conclude deals with leading Chinese tour operators and travel agents in the key cities of Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing. The sales mission was specially designed to strengthen business links between the Irish tourism enterprises and the influential Chinese travel professionals, through a busy programme of workshops, presentations and networking events.



Tourism Ireland reaches 3 million Facebook fans (now 3.33 million)

In July, Tourism Ireland reached three million fans on Facebook around the world. The organisation is now the third most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (after Australia and the United States), number two on Twitter and number two on YouTube.


Taoiseach lends a hand to promote Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way at Milan EXPO

Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited Milan to view the Ireland pavilion at EXPO 2015. He met with Tourism Ireland staff, as well as some leading Italian tour operators who programme and sell holidays to Ireland. In September, Tourism Ireland also welcomed U2’s lead singer Bono to EXPO 2015.



80 million Chinese tune in to ‘Glamorous Ireland’ documentary

A 45-minute documentary, called Glamorous Ireland, aired to an estimated 80 million Chinese people around the world on China Central Television (CCTV-4). The documentary highlighted our beautiful landscape, arts and crafts and featured places like Trinity College, the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle.


Galway, Dublin and Cork voted friendliest cities in the world

Three Irish cities – Galway, Dublin and Cork – made it into the top four friendliest cities in the world in the annual reader survey of Travel + Leisure, a major US travel magazine based in New York. Galway was in first position, with Dublin and Cork coming in third and fourth place respectively.


Dublin voted second friendliest city in the world – by readers of Condé Nast Traveler

Dublin was voted the world’s second friendliest city by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, the prestigious US travel magazine. Also in August, Dublin was voted “favourite worldwide city” at the inaugural Trazee awards in Orlando, Florida, organised by – an online publication targeting travellers aged 18-35.



Autumn campaign with a festival focus

Tourism Ireland launched a €12 million promotional blitz in September, to boost late-season travel to Ireland from around the world. The campaign highlighted the many festivals and events taking place right around the island –from the Dublin Theatre Festival to the Bram Stoker Festival, Culture Night, the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival, Wexford Festival Opera, Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, The Outing, Cork Jazz Festival and the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival.

Tourism Ireland scoops two awards at annual World Routes Awards 2015

Tourism Ireland fought off tough competition to secure two major wins at the international World Route Awards, taking both overall winner – the ‘World Routes Marketing’ award – and the ‘Best Destination Marketing’ award. The awards, which took place in Durban, South Africa, have been running since 1997 and recognise excellence in airport and route development marketing. The winners are decided by the votes of international airlines.


Online film promotes ID2015 and design along the Wild Atlantic Way

Tourism Ireland launched a new online film, ‘The Nature of Design – The Wild Atlantic Way’, specially created to highlight the Wild Atlantic Way and its wonderful local design, craftsmanship and creativity. It featured wonderful images of the West of Ireland and urged viewers to come and be “inspired by the rugged nature of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and the people and makers behind it”. Tourism Ireland has been highlighting the year-long ID2015 programme, our creativity and design in its promotions around the globe throughout 2015 – celebrating design in just about every form, including events across the island, as well as activities and showcases at design weeks and fashion weeks.



Dublin named third best city in the world to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet

Dublin was named the third best city in the world to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet. The leading travel media company unveiled the accolade in the prestigious Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 – its collection of the world’s hottest trends, destinations and experiences for the coming year. Tourism Ireland has been taking – and will take – every opportunity to maximise this latest accolade, using it as another ‘hook’ to continue to promote Dublin and Ireland around the world as a ‘must visit’ destination.



Ireland takes part in London’s historic Lord Mayor’s Show for first time

Ireland participated for the first time ever in The Lord Mayor’s Show in London, which celebrated its 800thanniversary this year. Tourism Ireland invited Lord Mayors and Mayors from across the island of Ireland to participate – to help showcase the island of Ireland in our largest tourism market and to further cement the relationship between Ireland and the UK. Also for the first time ever, the Dublin Lord Mayor’s ceremonial coach left the city to appear in the ancient London pageant.



Tourism Ireland scoops top marketing award for Game of Thrones campaign

Tourism Ireland scooped a top marketing award for its ‘Northern Ireland, Game of Thrones Territory’ campaign, at the International Content Marketing Awards – organised by the Content Marketing Association (CMA) – in London. Tourism Ireland was one of ten organisations shortlisted in the “best travel” category for its 2015 Game of Thronescampaign, beating off stiff competition from the likes of British Airways, Scandinavian Airlines and Quantas Airways, to take the top prize.

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