An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. today launched a major development to help grow tourism business from China: the extension, until October 2016, of the visa waiver scheme for Chinese tourists who wish to visit Ireland. The Taoiseach made the announcement at an event in Beijing attended by leading Chinese travel trade, media and airline representatives – organised by Tourism Ireland as part of this week’s trade mission to China which is being led by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr Richard Bruton T.D.
The visa waiver scheme, introduced by the Government last year on a trial basis, encourages visitors from emerging markets, like China, to visit Ireland when they are visiting the UK, without the hassle or cost of applying for a separate visa. Tourism Ireland in China reported an immediate and significant increase in interest in Ireland – with nine leading Chinese tour operators deciding to include Ireland in their 2012 programmes for the first time ever as a result of the initiative.
The Taoiseach also signalled Ireland’s warm welcome for Chinese visitors – with the introduction of a short-stay visa for individual travellers. In the past, Chinese people have travelled to Ireland as part of a tour group. However, market intelligence shows that, increasingly, independent travel is a strong personal statement and is widely regarded in China as very fashionable. Seventy-two per cent of wealthy Chinese people are now opting for an individual, high end travel experience and Tourism Ireland will target this demographic by highlighting the new short-stay visa. Already, six online travel agents in China are offering Ireland holiday packages for individual travellers for the first time ever – which include the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry and Galway.
Speaking at today’s tourism event in Beijing, Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “The extension of the visa waiver scheme and the introduction of the short-stay visa for individual travellers is really good news and a significant step in helping us to grow visitor numbers from China in 2012 and beyond – whether they wish to travel to Ireland for sightseeing, golf or as business tourists. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 Chinese visitors come to Ireland each year. However, Tourism Ireland believes that this market has the potential to grow considerably, especially given China’s strong economy and growing population, which includes an estimated 535,000 ‘high net worth’ individuals.”
Tourism Ireland is rolling out a busy promotional programme in China this year which includes traditional and online marketing to help boost awareness of the island of Ireland as a world-class holiday destination. “Jump into Ireland” ads are playing in taxis in Shanghai this week and are also running on the big screen in People’s Square in Shanghai. Tourism Ireland is also working to capitalise on the proximity of the London Olympics this summer, encouraging Chinese people travelling to London to extend their trip and visit Ireland as part of their Olympics 2012 experience.
Niall Gibbons continued: “Spend by Chinese travellers has risen four-fold in the past decade, making them the fourth-biggest spending tourists in the world and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has indicated that travel expenditure by the Chinese was almost US$55 billion in 2010. With 2 million Chinese people visiting Europe each year, this is a significant emerging market and an important one for the island of Ireland to tap into. Tourism Ireland will continue to work hard to put Ireland on the map in emerging markets, including China, which offers exciting possibilities for tourism to the island of Ireland.”
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. and Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland (centre), with six online travel agents, at the announcement in Beijing of the introduction of a short-stay visa for individual Chinese travellers.
Further media information:
Sinéad Grace, Tourism Ireland
Tel: 087-685 9027
Note to Editors:
• Tourism Ireland is the organisation responsible for promoting the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination.
• Tourism is the island of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry; responsible for in excess of 4% of GNP in the Republic of Ireland and employing approximately 200,000 people.
• In 2011, approximately 7.3 million overseas visitors came to the island of Ireland (+6% on 2010), delivering revenue of approximately €3.4 billion. Overseas tourism business accounts for 59% of all tourism revenue.
• Tourism Ireland’s international website is www.discoverireland.com; there are 42 different websites, providing information in 14 different languages covering every continent. In 2011, discoverireland.com attracted almost 12 million unique visitors.