The largest ever Tourism Ireland sales mission to China kicks off tomorrow (Monday, 11 November), with 20 tourism companies from the island of Ireland heading off to China, to meet and do business with more than 450 top travel agents and tour operators, as well as key travel and lifestyle journalists, in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
The week-long sales blitz will involve workshops, presentations and networking events – with the Irish tourism businesses meeting with influential travel agents, to encourage them to include Ireland in their 2014 brochures. They will compete for a share of the 3+ million Chinese visitors to Europe each year.
Commenting on the sales mission, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Outbound travel from China has grown at an exceptionally high rate over recent years, with the number of international trips growing significantly and forecasts for the next decade suggesting an even greater rise. Although awareness of Ireland in China is still quite low, we believe that this market represents a significant opportunity for Irish tourism. Tourism Ireland is committed to growing visitor numbers from China over the coming years – from approximately 17,000 visitors in 2012 to 50,000 per year, over the coming five years.
“Factors working in our favour – which have helped to increase Ireland’s profile in this vast, hugely diverse market – include the huge popularity of Riverdance in China, as well as last year’s visit by the then vice-president Xi Jinping, who has since become president. Our week-long sales mission, where we talk directly to travel agents and influential media, and tell them what makes the island of Ireland such a great holiday destination, is an excellent opportunity to increase our share from this enormous market.”
Tourism Ireland’s activity in China involves establishing and building upon existing relationships with influential intermediaries, such as the travel trade, airlines and media – highlighting our natural attractions, cities, castles and proximity to Britain. The organisation recently launched the Chinese version of Ireland.com and is currently running an online ad campaign to highlight the new site, targeting leisure travellers living in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.
The visa waiver scheme, introduced by the Government in 2011, has played an important role in encouraging 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 14 leading Chinese tour operators deciding to include Ireland in their programmes or itineraries for the first time ever as a result of the initiative – delivering an estimated 6,000 additional visitors.