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13 Feb 2012

Tourism Ireland targets Middle East on travel trade mission

A travel trade mission in the Middle East kicks off today. A delegation led by Tourism Ireland is visiting Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait this week, to meet with key tour operators and travel agents in the region, to ensure the island of Ireland fully capitalises on this emerging tourism market.  

This is the largest-ever tourism mission to the Middle East with Tourism Ireland. The delegation includes 15 Irish tourism organisations – including luxury hotels, DMCs (destination management companies), chauffeur drive services, as well as Kildare Village (emphasising the importance of these visitors for our retail sector). The mission, organised in association with VisitBritain and VisitScotland, involves workshops with travel agents and tour operators over three days. Although use of the internet for the planning and booking of holidays is on the increase, travel agents remain extremely important in the Middle East region. This sales mission will allow participating Irish companies to network and do business face-to-face with key decision-makers, encouraging them to include the island of Ireland in future holiday programmes.

The recent launch of daily flights from Dubai to Dublin with Emirates, as well as the existing ten flights per week from Abu Dhabi to Dublin with Etihad Airways, have helped to strengthen links between the UAE and Ireland. The visa waiver scheme, introduced by the Government last year, is also enhancing Ireland’s popularity as a holiday destination for UAE travellers; the scheme makes it easier than ever before for visitors from the Middle East, and other emerging tourism markets, to come to Ireland on holidays.

Commenting on the business potential of this week’s tourism mission to the Middle East, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Tourism missions such as this provide a platform for us and our Irish partners to showcase the huge range of things to see and do on a holiday in Ireland and are extremely important in helping us to compete effectively for the growing number of affluent travellers in this market. Ireland is an emerging destination for Middle East travellers and this market could certainly play a part in helping us to grow tourism from overseas in 2012 and beyond. Our message this week is that there has never been a better time to visit, with the visa waiver scheme and more direct flights making it easier than ever before to get to Ireland.”

Tourism Ireland will have a busy promotional programme in place in the Middle East for 2012. Activity involves co-operative campaigns with airlines and influential tour operators to ensure Ireland features prominently in itineraries and travel brochures; hosting familiarisation visits for travel agents and tour operators around the island of Ireland; as well as working closely with travel and lifestyle journalists, to ensure the island of Ireland features extensively in the media in the Middle East. When Galway hosts the final stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race this July, six Arab dhows will be transported to the finale, as part of a cultural exchange.