The United States offers significant potential for tourism enterprises in Northern Ireland and around the island of Ireland, according to the findings of an ambitious new review unveiled by Tourism Ireland. The three-year plan, “Make Ireland Jump Out”, will see the number of American visitors to the island increase by +20% between 2013 and 2015 and will also win a greater share for Ireland of all travel by Americans to Europe.
The United States is the island of Ireland’s second most important tourist-generating market. Last year was one of the strongest years ever for visitors from the US (after 2007) and 2013 could be the best year ever – when we hope to welcome over one million American visitors to the island of Ireland, spending over US$1 billion. A critical factor which will underpin this growth is the significant increase – almost 27% – in the number of airline seats between the US and the island of Ireland this summer.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “The United States continues to be one of the strongest markets for tourism to the island of Ireland and 2013 looks set to be a record year. However, we can’t take our relatively successful performance in recent years for granted; we need to adapt and respond to new opportunities to ensure the success continues. I am confident that this new, focused strategy will deliver on the targets we have set for growth in American visitors between now and 2015.
“For 2013, the Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations present a wonderful opportunity for Tourism Ireland to shine a spotlight on Northern Ireland in the US, to make it a ‘must visit’ destination. Our busy programme of promotions for 2013 includes a major focus on Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture, which provides fresh and compelling reasons for Americans to visit.”
The last decade has seen many world events and crises impact on the American traveller; despite these challenges, the island of Ireland has managed to maintain a relatively strong performance during this period. However, the “Make Ireland Jump Out” review – undertaken in conjunction with key industry partners – confirms that if the island of Ireland is to continue to grow business from the United States over and above European levels, then it will be necessary to bring our tourism offering to the next stage of development.
The new strategy has identified the various challenges and opportunities that face the island of Ireland for the coming three years. Some of the actions identified in the review which will help to deliver the +20% growth target include:
- Tourism Ireland will target new segments, making the island of Ireland ‘jump out’ to them in all its promotional activity. These include ‘young independents’ (typically in their late 20s, relatively affluent, with the freedom to travel, web savvy and travelling in couples of with a group of friends); ‘middle-aged explorers’ (aged 40-55, well-educated, interested in history, culture and enjoying the landscape); and ‘mature must seers and doers’ (over 55, affluent and travelling as a couple, with a deep interest in history).
- As well as these new segments, Tourism Ireland will also maintain a focus on key niche segments like business tourism (targeting the lucrative association conference business, incentive travel and corporate meetings) and golf (highlighting our world-class links courses, the profile and success of our golfers and our authentic ‘19th hole’ experience).
- Moving “lookers” to “bookers: in the main, the island of Ireland is viewed very positively by Americans, many of whom assert an intention to travel here at some stage in the future. Tourism Ireland will deliver immediacy and action in its communications – to get Americans to visit now. A strong ‘call-to-action’ message will be included in all co-operative promotions with airlines and tour operators, so that the interested vacationer will be in no doubt as to what to do next – get booking that trip to the island of Ireland now!
- Deliver new relevance: Tourism Ireland will make the island of Ireland more relevant for Americans in the ‘shoulder’ season (March, April, October and November), promoting key experiences and events taking place in those months. Cities like Belfast and Dublin will be extensively promoted, primarily targeting the ‘young independents’ living on the east coast of the US. Shorter, six-day visits will be also highlighted, targeting the ‘cash rich and time poor’ vacationer.