Minister Donohoe & Tourism Ireland unveil new strategies to boost tourism from Spain & Italy

8th February, 2016

Tourism Ireland targets +25% growth in Spanish and Italian visitors


Spain and Italy offer significant potential for Irish tourism, according to two new Tourism Ireland strategies launched today by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD.


The strategies set out challenging and ambitious targets which will see the island of Ireland welcome almost 3.8 million Spanish and Italian visitors between now and 2020 – 825,000 visitors per year from both countries by 2020 – representing growth of +25%.


Key factors working in our favour to enable growth from Spain include:

–      recent strong performance: since 2000, visitors from Spain to Ireland have tripled. Spain is now the fifth most important market for Irish tourism in terms of visitor numbers and the sixth most important in terms of revenue;

–      strong air connectivity between Spain and Ireland;

–      interest in visiting Ireland is high among Spaniards;

–      more than 20% of all Spanish visitors to Ireland visit in the off-season or Q4 – a real opportunity for Irish tourism operators to win business at a time when there is capacity in accommodation and other tourism facilities; and

–      approximately 98% of Spanish visitors to Ireland are independent travellers, with around 95% booking part of their trip online. Spaniards are also heavy users of social and digital media and are hugely influenced by word of mouth.


Key factors working in our favour to enable growth from Italy over the next four years include:

–      direct air access to Ireland is strong;

–      interest in visiting Ireland is high among our ‘culturally curious’ audience;

–      over half of all Italian visitors to Ireland come specifically for holidays; and

–      Italian visitors are among our higher-spending and longer-staying visitors (they stay an average of ten nights).


Minister Donohoe said:  ‘We have seen five consecutive years of growth in overseas visitor numbers to Ireland culminating in a record year in 2015, with more than 8.6 million visits recorded. Despite this, we remain ambitious for even further growth in the Irish tourism sector in the years ahead. The Government’s Tourism Policy Statement which we launched last year and the Tourism Action Plan, which I published in recent weeks, set out the key policy measures and related actions to ensure that tourism will continue to grow in a sustainable manner right up to 2025 . The Spanish and Italian strategies which are being launched today show how visitors from these markets will play a key part in achieving our growth targets’.


Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Spain and Italy have performed extremely well for tourism to the island of Ireland in recent years and the future is undoubtedly bright. We believe that both are markets of considerable potential for Irish tourism over the coming years. However, we certainly don’t take the performance for granted; we need to adapt and respond to new opportunities to ensure that success continues. I am confident that our new, focused strategies will deliver on the challenging targets we have set for growth in Spanish and Italian visitors, between now and 2020.”


The Tourism Ireland strategies have been developed in close co-operation with a wide range of industry partners, at home and in Spain and Italy. They have identified the opportunities which will drive accelerated growth from both countries to the island of Ireland over the coming four years.



Notes to Editors:

Tourism Ireland’s strategy for Spain

Tourism Ireland’s new strategy for Spain has identified the various challenges and opportunities that face the island of Ireland between now and 2020. The areas which will help to deliver the ambitious growth targets include:

  • Focusing on Ireland’s ‘best prospect’ audiences

Tourism Ireland’s primary focus for marketing in Spain will be our ‘culturally curious’ audience, particularly for spring and summer travel. These are people who like to get under the skin of a destination, visit places of historical and cultural importance and look for something unique and different from home.

Tourism Ireland’s secondary focus will be ‘social energisers’. The organisation will leverage their higher tendency to travel in the shoulder season (21% of Spanish visitors currently visit Ireland during Q4). This group represents a real opportunity for Irish tourism operators at a time of year when they are likely to have more available capacity. Spanish ‘social energisers’ like to explore cities and discover their cultural and social offerings, enjoy fun nightlife in cool, trendy places, visit new destinations and share unique experiences with their friends.

  • Co-operating with key partners

Tourism Ireland will undertake co-operative advertising with partners – including Spanish online travel agents (OTAs), tour operators and carriers – at key times for travel decision-making, highlighting great reasons to travel to Ireland, as well as good value fares and offers. Particular focus will be on leveraging these partnerships to roll out ad campaigns that will expand Ireland’s presence on TV, in newspapers and on radio, as well as in digital media.

Tourism Ireland will also work with Irish tourism industry partners, to bring market-appropriate offers and stories about Ireland to the attention of potential Spanish visitors.

  • Ramping up publicity

Tourism Ireland will step up its publicity campaign in Spain, targeting influencers and opinion-leaders – including influential bloggers – to generate positive word of mouth about Ireland.

  • Harnessing digital and social media

Tourism Ireland will leverage its strength in digital and social media, to stimulate conversations about Ireland – involving potential and repeat visitors, as well as tourism partners.


Tourism Ireland’s strategy for Ireland

The areas which will help to deliver the ambitious growth targets from Italy include:

  • Focusing on our ‘best prospect’ audience

Tourism Ireland will intensify its focus in Italy on our ‘culturally curious’ segment. These are people who travel to experience life like the locals and to get under the skin of a destination. Compared to ‘culturally curious’ visitors from other countries, Italians are looking for buzz and excitement. However, they are also more inclined to stick to what they have already heard about – so it will be important to generate recommendations for Ireland from Italian opinion-formers and previous visitors and to highlight these to potential visitors.

  • Highlighting ease of access

Tourism Ireland will highlight ease of access from Italy and ease of getting around once here in Ireland, by increasing awareness of good value fares and of public transport options.

  • Encouraging regional and seasonal spread

Tourism Ireland will work to grow Italian visitor numbers in the shoulder season –spreading the word that Irish cities are always in season and have breathtaking scenery on their doorsteps.

  • Influencing opinion-formers

Tourism Ireland will seek to influence Italian opinion-formers who can help spread the Ireland message and keep Ireland top of mind and ‘in the conversation’ in social and other media. The organisation will intensify its marketing through digital and social channels and through publicity, with renewed emphasis on digital PR, including working with influential bloggers.

  • Showcasing the quality of Irish food

Tourism Ireland will highlight the quality of Irish food because it has the power to motivate Italian visitors to come here. Food is important to Italians because they see it as part of our culture and a reflection of the unique and stunning landscape it comes from and the people who produce and supply it.

  • Highlighting Ireland’s warmth, hospitality and fun

Tourism Ireland will highlight the warmth, hospitality and fun of Ireland and the various experiences on offer here that are different to those Italians can have at home.