Minister Donohoe and Tourism Ireland look back on a successful year for overseas tourism

17th December, 2014

Minister to publish new Tourism Policy Statement in new year to build on gains made in recent years


2014 was another strong year for overseas tourism, with about 7.3 million visitors (+8.8% growth over 2013) contributing almost €3.6 billion (+9%) in revenue to the economy. Growth has come from all market areas this year, with the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Spain and Australia all turning in record performances. Tourism Ireland today reflected on highlights of its promotional activity around the world in 2014. These have included the Wild Atlantic Way – which has been very well received right around the world – as well as Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative on St Patrick’s Day, which was bigger than ever before this year.


Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD, said: “As we approach the end of 2014, I am delighted to acknowledge another excellent year for Irish tourism. In fact we have now witnessed growth in overseas visitor numbers for the fourth consecutive year. The impressive growth in visitors from all of our main overseas markets and the significant increase in the revenue accruing to our economy from these visits is particularly impressive given that 2013 was the year of the Gathering, and many feared it would be difficult to repeat last year’s success. In fact we are on target to break all previous records for visit numbers from very important markets like the USA, Germany and France. The data shows that a range of measures which the Government introduced to support our tourism sector like the Gathering Ireland 2013, reducing the rate of the Air Travel Tax to zero from April 2014 and retaining the reduction of VAT at 9% on tourism-related services have all worked.  While this is all excellent news for those involved in Irish tourism, I have even more ambitious targets for the years ahead and in the new year will publish a new Tourism Policy Statement which will seek to build on the gains made in recent years and chart a course to achieving a significant increase in tourist revenue and employment in the sector over the course of the next decade.”


Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to report an increase of +8.8% in visitor numbers, over 2013. Growth has been recorded from all our market areas and 2014 will be the best year ever 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 2014, we will have welcomed more than one million American visitors, spending US$1 billion. And the all-important British market, the largest market for Irish tourism, has also seen growth in visitor numbers in 2014, which is really encouraging. The introduction of the British-Irish Visa Scheme during the year was additional good news, making it easier than ever before for visitors from emerging tourism markets like China and India to visit Ireland in 2015.


“Throughout the year, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. The major focus of our activity was the Wild Atlantic Way – which has been very well received in our markets around the world. Our other major themes have included Limerick City of Culture, the ‘Grande Partenza’ of the Giro d’Italia, Game of Thrones and the Croke Park Classic American football game.”


At the beginning of this month, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans to promote Ireland in 2015 and beyond, with ambitious targets to welcome a record 7.74 million visitors to Ireland next year. In the longer-term, the aim is to welcome some 10 million visitors to Ireland in 2025, contributing €5 billion to the economy and helping to sustain about 250,000 jobs. Commenting on the plans for 2015 and beyond, Niall Gibbons said: “Following a successful 2014, ambitious targets have been set for 2015 and beyond. Next year, we will continue to place a major focus on promoting the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on Dubline (the new Dublin Discovery Trail). We will also promote specific themes, including ID2015 and Yeats 2015. And we will highlight the British-Irish Visa Scheme in China and India, which will enable Chinese and Indian visitors to come to both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a single visa of either country.”





The Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s first long-distance touring route, has been a major focus of Tourism Ireland’s promotions throughout 2014. 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 2014, thousands ofopportunities 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 €280 million in equivalent advertising value.


Improved access

2014 saw a number of really positive announcements on the important access front, including welcome new routes introduced by a range of carriers. Summer 2014 saw a +9% 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. The significant (almost +70%) increase in airlines seats between Canada and Ireland also presented new and exciting opportunity to position Ireland as a year-round destination for Canadian travellers.


And announcements for 2015 augur well for the continued success of overseas tourism. These include a new Aer Lingus flight from Washington DC to Dublin, a new United Airlines flight from Chicago, a new Transavia service from Paris, as well as other new air routes like a Finnair service from Helsinki and SAS flight from Gothenburg in Sweden.






Giant Leap for Tourism! Astronaut Chris Hadfield lends a hand to promote tourism

In January, Tourism Ireland enlisted the help of the famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, to showcase some of our top visitor attractions and experiences. He spent several days as a ‘tourist’, with Tourism Ireland filming him along the way and producing a series of four short films called ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to the Island of Ireland’. The films – featuring Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way, the popular attractions of Titanic Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse, as well as footage of Chris learning to play hurling – were promoted on Tourism Ireland’s website, They were also shared by Tourism Ireland with its Facebook fans and Twitter followers and on its YouTube channel.


Tourism Ireland reaches 2 million Facebook fans – now 2.65 million!

At the end of January, Tourism Ireland reached two million fans on Facebook around the world. The organisation is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (about 2.65 million fans), number three on Twitter and number two on YouTube.



‘Jump into Ireland’ sales blitz kicks off in the US

Tourism Ireland’s 2014 series of ‘Jump into Ireland’ sales blitzes across the United States kicked off in February – in Atlanta (Georgia), Tampa and Sarasota (Florida). Subsequent ‘Jump into Ireland’ events took place during the year in Fort Worth, Houston and Austin (Texas); in Chicago and Boston; and in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The ‘Jump’ schedule included a B2B event in each city for the Irish delegations, showcasing the island of Ireland via a special travel TV show format to the influential American travel professionals in attendance. Each event also included an opportunity for networking with influential travel and lifestyle media.



Global Greening season

Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day was bigger and better than ever before in 2014 – generating more than €10 million worth of positive publicity for Ireland across the world. This year, the iconic Great Wall of China became the ‘Green Wall of China’, going 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 100 landmark buildings and iconic sites around the world taking part this year, including the famous Moulin Rouge which became the ‘Moulin Vert’, the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland® Paris and even Scott Base in Antartica.



Winter is coming! Tourism Ireland announces major campaign with HBO’s Game of Thrones

In April, Tourism Ireland joined forces with HBO and its smash hit TV series Game of Thrones to promote Northern Ireland around the world in a brand new way.Timed to coincide with the return of the long-awaited fourth season of Game of Thrones, a brand new advertising and social media campaign was rolled out by Tourism Ireland through ads on Facebook and Twitter in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, leveraging the incredible success of the HBO brand and the huge global popularity of Game of Thrones and its strong associations with Northern Ireland – the physical and spiritual home of the series, where much of the filming takes place. The campaign ran for 11 weeks, until mid-June, and was hugely successful – generating one million clicks, comments and shares and reaching about 100 million fans across the world.


New strategy unveiled to boost tourism from France and Germany

Also in April, a new three-year plan, ‘Germany and France – A Strategy for Growth’, was unveiled by Tourism Ireland, setting out challenging and ambitious targets which will see the number of German and French visitors to the island of Ireland grow to 1.1 million by 2016, delivering revenue of €602 million for the economies north and south. 2014 looks set to be the best year ever for visitor numbers to Ireland from Germany and France – our third- and fourth-largest tourist-generating markets. The new strategy aims to build on this success and drive accelerated growth from both markets.


Historic State Visit of President Michael D Higgins to Great Britain

The first ever State Visit by a President of Ireland to Great Britain this year presented an excellent opportunity to shine a spotlight on the island of Ireland to a huge audience of prospective holidaymakers in Great Britain, and indeed elsewhere around the world. Tourism Ireland took every opportunity to leverage the tourism potential of the historic visit, rolling out an extensive programme of activity which included advertising, publicity and public relations, business tourism promotions, e-marketing and social media.



‘Kimye’ honeymoon hype helps boost tourism

The whereabouts of newlywed superstars Kim Kardashian and Kanye West – nicknamed ‘Kimye’ – became a global story in May, when they arrived by private jet into Cork Airport to spend their honeymoon here. The rumour-mill went into overdrive, with huge speculation among their fans around the world about the whereabouts of the A-list power couple. Tourism Ireland decided to take advantage of the hype and the huge worldwide interest in the couple’s Irish honeymoon. The organisation produced a fun, newsflash videofeaturing fabulous images of Cork, Kerry and other locations around the island of Ireland (including the Wild Atlantic Way, Titanic Belfast and Dublin) – as a helpful guide for Kim and Kanye’s massive online fanbase, about where they were, or rather where they might have been. The film was shared by Tourism Ireland with its Facebook fans and Twitter followers and on its YouTube channel – letting Kimye fans everywhere know just how great Ireland is for a honeymoon, holiday or short break.


Giro fever hits Ireland!

The Grande Partenza (or ‘Big Start’) of the Giro d’Italia came to Ireland in May – presenting an unprecedented opportunity to promote the island of Ireland to millions of cycling enthusiasts, people who enjoy the great outdoors, as well as general holidaymakers everywhere. Tourism Ireland rolled out an extensive programme of international promotions, to capitalise on the tourism potential of this event. ‘Giro’ promotions were a major focus for Tourism Ireland in nine markets – including in Italy, the home of the famous race, as well as in Great Britain, Germany, France, Span, the Netherlands, the Nordic region and Australia. An extensive programme of activity included advertising (on and offline), publicity and public relations, e-marketing, social media, as well as consumer and trade promotions.


Thumbs up for Tourism Ireland at the All Ireland Marketing Awards

Tourism Ireland took the top award for International Marketing at the All Ireland Marketing (AIM) awards, organised by the Marketing Institute of Ireland, beating off strong competition in the same category from the likes of the Irish Dairy Board, Openet, Riverdream Productions and Horseware Ireland. The award was presented for Tourism Ireland’s international marketing of the Gathering Ireland during 2013. The campaign reached an estimated 200 million people worldwide through a wide range of media and promotional activity – including TV and print advertising, as well as an innovative digital strategy highlighting the many great reasons to visit Ireland during the year.



Tourism summit takes place in Dublin

More than 60 influential players from the world of tourism and travel gathered in Dublin, to attend a one-day tourism summit organised by Tourism Ireland. The high-level summit brought together key industry representatives from around the island of Ireland, and from around the world, to discuss and explore areas of opportunity and the key themes for future growth in overseas tourism to Ireland, in 2015 and beyond. The summit included presentations and panel discussions – exploring ideas and listening closely to the views of key overseas tourism operators in relation to their own markets, the opportunities and challenges for travel and tourism to the island of Ireland in 2015 and beyond, and the best ways to harvest that potential.



Online film promoting flagship event of Limerick City of Culture

In July, Tourism Ireland launched a new online film, specially created to highlight the flagship event of this year’s Limerick City of Culture programme, ‘The Giant’s Journey’. The 60-second film featured the giant, elaborate marionettes of Royal de Luxe winding through the streets of Nantes, in France – giving people a flavour of what to expect when this dramatic pageant took place over three days in the autumn and urging prospective travellers everywhere to “join us in Limerick”.Throughout 2014, Tourism Ireland took every opportunity to shine a spotlight on the city in its promotions around the world – leveraging the tourism benefits of this year-long celebration of culture and showcasing Limerick as a cultural and historic destination.


Tourism Ireland unveils unknown Irish family connections of Princess Charlene of Monaco

Tourism Ireland unveiled the previously unknown Irish family connections of H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco. Research commissioned by Tourism Ireland and carried out by genealogy researchers Eneclann revealed that Princess Charlene’s ancestors can be traced back to the 1520s and a prominent Dublin family called the Fagans. In July, Princess Charlene was presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage by HE Rory Montgomery, Irish Ambassador to France, in the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, with her husband, Prince Albert, also in attendance.



Touchdown for tourism! Croke Park Classic brings 20,000 visitors to Ireland

Some 20,000 American football fans descended on Dublin, for the inaugural Croke Park Classic – the season opener between college football teams University of Central Florida (UCF) and Penn State, which took place on 30 August in Croke Park. Big-time names in American college football, both teams brought huge fanfare, providing Tourism Ireland with an ideal opportunity to highlight the island of Ireland in the United States – not just as a wonderful holiday destination but also a top location for sporting events.Tourism Ireland put in place a busy promotional programme, to maximise the tourism potential the big game offered for Dublin and Ireland. Millions of sports fans saw ads for Ireland on TV across the United States, in the week before the big game, on ESPN (the hugely popular sports network) and ESPN2 – around prime time programmes. The ads also ran during each half of the Croke Park Classic.



Autumn campaign with a festival focus

Tourism Ireland launched an €11 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 Festival Season to Culture Night, the Belfast Festival at Queens, Wexford Festival Opera, Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, and not forgetting the many literary-themed events and activities taking place for Limerick City of Culture.


#LoveDublin and #PictureBelfast social media campaign targets social energisers Tourism Ireland in Britain unveiled two new films as part of a novel social media campaign to showcase Dublin and Belfast to prospective visitors in Britain. The films – #LoveDublin and #PictureBelfast – were specially designed to create two unique visual challenges showing off the best of both cities. They were designed to appeal to ‘social energisers’, a key audience for Tourism Ireland – typically young couples or adult groups looking for excitement, new experiences and fun, social holidays somewhere new and different. To date, each film has been seen by about 280,000 people around Britain.


On Location with Phil Spencer!

Tourism Ireland teamed up with Phil Spencer, co-presenter of the hit Channel 4 TV series Location Location Location, and Classic FM, one of Britain’s largest radio stations, in a novel promotion to showcase Ireland to British holidaymakers as the ideal ‘location’ for an autumn break. Tourism Ireland partnered with Phil Spencer to produce a ‘cultural tour of the island of Ireland’ through four separate online films, which were promoted on the Classic FM website over a four-week period to about 6.5 million people across Britain.


Sales mission to China

Tourism Ireland, together with 18 Irish tourism enterprises, undertook a sales mission to China, targeting top travel agents and tour operators in the key cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. 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.



Ireland was named fifth best country in the world to visit in 2015 by Lonely Planet

Ireland was named the fifth best country in the world to visit in 2015 by Lonely Planet. The popular travel guidebook publisher unveiled the accolade in its prestigious Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015 – 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 Ireland around the world as a ‘must visit’ destination.


New British-Irish Visa Scheme launched to boost visitor numbers from emerging tourism markets

The new British-Irish Visa Scheme was launched on behalf of the Irish and British Governments, by Frances Fitzgerald TD, Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, and by Theresa May MP, British Home Secretary, at the Irish Embassy in London. The new joint visa programme will enable visitors from China and India to travel freely between Ireland and the United Kingdom using the same travel documents i.e. using either an Irish or UK visa. This is a significant step, as it will mean Chinese and Indian visitors will be able – for the first time – to visit both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a single visa of either country.


Website is a big ‘hit’

Tourism Ireland’s global marketing website,, scooped three awards at the W³ Awards in New York, which recognise creative excellence on the web. The W³ Awards are extremely well regarded in the United States (similar to the Webby awards), attracting more than 4,000 entries this year. The judging panel – the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts – honours outstanding websites, web marketing, web video, mobile sites/apps and social content created worldwide. Tourism Ireland picked up the following awards:

–      gold for its Wild Atlantic Way website design

–      silver for visual appeal of its Wild Atlantic Way website

–      and a silver for its St Patrick’s Day campaign, including social content and promotion

By the end of 2014, will have attracted about 13.6 million visitors (including 37% from mobile devices).



Tourism Ireland leads trade mission to Australia and New Zealand

Tourism Ireland’s final overseas trade mission of 2014 took place in November – to New Zealand and Australia – with 12 Irish tourism enterprises travelling to Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, where they met and did business with hundreds of influential travel agents, tour operators and journalists.



President Michael D Higgins addresses Chinese travel professionals in Shanghai – as part of State Visit to China

President Michael D Higgins addressed leading Chinese travel trade, media and airline representatives in Shanghai, at an event organised by Tourism Ireland as part of the week-long State Visit to China. At the event, Chinese academic Professor Pu Durong presented President Higgins with his translation into Chinese of the president’s poetry. The event was also an ideal opportunity for Tourism Ireland to highlight the new British-Irish Visa Scheme to the influential Chinese guests in attendance.