Cork Convention Bureau attends launch of new tourism strategy to grow tourist numbers from the United States to 2 million

3 January 2018
By Mary Bermingham

New strategy targets +23% growth in American visitors by 2021

The United States offers considerable potential for Irish tourism, according to a new Tourism Ireland strategy launched this week by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD. The launch was attended by tourism industry leaders from Cork and elsewhere around the country.

Seamus Heaney, Cork Convention Bureau; and Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland, at the launch of a new tourism strategy for the US market.
Pic: Naoise Culhane

The strategy aims to build on recent success and to anticipate the various opportunities and challenges in the years ahead. It sets out ambitious targets which will see the island of Ireland welcome 2 million American visitors per year by 2021, representing growth of +23%; and will see revenue generated by American holidaymakers increase by +33%, to €1.37 billion per year.

The United States is the second-largest market for tourism to the island of Ireland and in 2017 we welcomed a record 1.83 American visitors. In fact, we saw growth of +60% in American holidaymakers to Ireland and +70% in revenue from American holidaymakers in the period 2012-2016; this strong growth was driven by more direct flights than ever, positive macro-economic conditions, as well as strong and effective sales and marketing.

New research was undertaken as part of this review, in order to deepen our understanding of our target audience in the US and how they choose their vacation. Key findings included:

  • Ireland is well considered by Americans. However, the Ireland ‘brand’ needs to be more distinctive in order to motivate prospective American visitors to choose us over competitive destinations.
  • Communications need to prompt people to reassess their assumptions about Ireland, surprise them and get them to ‘book now’, rather than ‘visit some day’. Communications also need to be more vivid and arresting.
  • Ireland needs to be more visible where Americans are looking (when planning their vacation) and booking (for actual travel) – across all travel platforms and channels, including social media.
  • The internet is used extensively by Americans to plan and prepare for their vacation. However, offline sources, including special offers/prices, travel TV shows and travel books, as well as tourist boards, remain important – particularly for our ‘Culturally Curious’ audience.
  • Personalised, authentic experiences are very important to these Americans travellers.
  • Value for money is also important.

Minister Griffin said: “As we reflect on 2017, which was another record-breaking year for Irish tourism, it is important that we also look to the future and strive to establish new and innovative ways of growing the tourism sector further. It is vital that we continue to invest in tourism marketing and I want to compliment Tourism Ireland on their new marketing strategy for the US market, which sets out ambitious, but achievable growth targets. We must be mindful of the market research which shows that value for money is important to US tourists; therefore retaining our competitiveness will be crucial. I have no doubt that this new marketing strategy will build on the very strong performance we have enjoyed from the United States in recent years.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “The United States has performed exceptionally well for tourism to the island of Ireland in recent years. We are aware that continuing to deliver the level of growth seen in recent years will be challenging, as the competitive environment is becoming increasingly crowded. But, we also know that this is a market with a strong affinity with Ireland and we believe that it can yield good growth in the years ahead. However, in order to unlock that growth, we will have to do some things differently; we need to adapt and respond to new opportunities. I am confident that our new, focused strategy will deliver on the challenging targets we have set for growth in American visitors, between now and 2021.”

The new strategy has been developed in close co-operation with Fáilte Ireland and Tourism NI, as well a wide range of industry partners, at home and in the United States. It has identified the market segments and opportunities which will drive strong growth from the US to the island of Ireland over the coming four years.

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