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01 Dec 2014

Tourism Ireland launches 2015 marketing plans (NI version)

Tourism Ireland targets +6% increase in overseas visitors and +9% increase in revenue in 2015

Tourism Ireland today launched details of its marketing plans to promote Northern Ireland overseas in 2015, at an event attended by tourism industry leaders from around Northern Ireland. The organisation aims to build on this year’s growth in overseas tourism and to welcome almost 1.9 million visitors to Northern Ireland in 2015. This figure will represent growth of +6% over 2014 and deliver £552 million to the Northern Ireland economy (+9%) next year.

Building on this year’s success and sustaining growth into the future is at the heart of Tourism Ireland’s strategy in 2015. The plans will see Tourism Ireland prioritise those markets that offer the best return on investment, in terms of holiday visitors and revenue i.e. Great Britain, North America and Mainland Europe. Emerging markets of high potential will also be targeted, particularly China and India, where Tourism Ireland will highlight the new British-Irish Visa Scheme.

In 2015, Tourism Ireland will continue to promote major Northern Ireland themes and attractions around the world – including the Causeway Coastal Route, Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, our National Trust properties, our world-class golf offering and great outdoor activities, Christian heritage, as well as our wonderful, locally-produced food. The organisation will highlight events like the Irish Open and Tall Ships in Belfast. City breaks to Belfast and Londonderry will also be a focus. The organisation will build on the success of its Game of Thrones campaign this year and will exploit ‘new news’ about Northern Ireland – including the launch of attractions such as the Gobbins Cliff Path and the newly-refurbished Mount Stewart house. Tourism Ireland will also continue to build awareness of Northern Ireland as a top business tourism destination, particularly highlighting the new facilities at the Waterfront Hall.

Important factors working in our favour for 2015 include consumer confidence, which is returning in our key source markets; and continued product investment enhances our offering overseas. Exchanges rates for currencies like the dollar are favourable; and the lower price of oil will help make air and sea routes more sustainable.

In 2015, Tourism Ireland will continue to leverage its strength in digital and social media. The organisation is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (about 2.65 million fans), number three on Twitter and number two on YouTube.

2014 performance
Latest estimates indicate that, by year end, almost 1.8 million people will have visited Northern Ireland in 2014, representing a +5% increase over 2013. Revenue generated by overseas visitors is expected to be approximately £508 million, a +7% increase over last year. Holiday visitors – the primary focus of Tourism Ireland marketing activity – are forecast to grow by +9%. Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Throughout 2014, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Northern Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. A major focus of our activity in the early part of the year was on highlighting the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia. We also joined forces with Game of Thrones creators HBO, on a ground-breaking advertising and social media campaign, leveraging the incredible success of the hugely popular TV series and its strong associations with Northern Ireland. In addition, thousands of opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about Northern Ireland; Tourism Ireland estimates that this media exposure is worth an estimated £82 million in equivalent advertising value.”

2015 and beyond
Tourism Ireland’s targets for 2015 will see Northern Ireland welcome almost 1.9 million visitors, representing growth of +6% over 2014. Commenting on the year ahead, Niall Gibbons said: “Following a successful 2014, ambitious targets have been set for 2015. We will continue to highlight iconic experiences all over Northern Ireland – including Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and our unique National Trust properties. The Causeway Coastal Route, and driving holidays to Northern Ireland, will also be promoted widely. Next year, we will be working hard to maximise the tourism potential of the Irish Open at Royal County Down and the return of the Tall Ships to Belfast, as well as the opening of the Gobbins Cliff Path. We will continue to target people of Ulster-Scots descent; and to promote Northern Ireland as a top golf destination. And we will highlight the new British-Irish Visa Scheme in China and India, which will enable Chinese and Indian visitors to visit both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a single visa of either country.” Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland CEO; Chris Stewart, Permanent Secretary, DETI; and Brian Ambrose, chairman of Tourism Ireland, in Belfast at the launch of Tourism Ireland’s marketing plans for 2015.

Notes To Editors

Tourism Ireland's Targets for 2015
     2015/14 % change
Total visitors
1,878 +6%
(£ millions)
552 +9%
Holiday visitors
608 +7%

Tourism Ireland’s Focus in 2015
Tourism Ireland has identified a number of strategic areas to underpin its promotional activity, to grow visitor numbers to Northern Ireland in 2015. These include:

•    Targeting our ‘best prospects’ visitors
Northern Ireland’s best prospects markets and audiences will be targeted more closely – with distinctive Northern Ireland holiday experiences, events and special offers tailored to their interests and designed to trigger their ‘must go now’ impulses.

•    Working with industry partners to help sell Northern Ireland around the world
Tourism Ireland will continue to work with Northern Ireland tourism enterprises, inviting industry partners to take up the huge range of opportunities to sell Northern Ireland to the overseas travel trade, as well as through trade partners on the island, such as the ITOA (Irish Tour Operators Association).

•    Co-operative campaigns
Tourism Ireland will continue to implement specific Northern Ireland co-operative campaigns and, in 2015, will cover up to 75% (previously 50%) of the cost of a tour operator’s campaign, in order to incentivise incremental bed nights to Northern Ireland.  

•    Case-making for increased direct access
As an island destination, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights to Northern Ireland cannot be overstated; there is a proven direct correlation between access and growth in visitor numbers. Tourism Ireland will continue to work closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, airlines, airports and other key partners – with a particular focus on markets such as Canada and Germany – to identify and help close gaps in air services to Northern Ireland, stimulate new flights and jointly promote existing routes.

•    Strengthening Engagement with Potential Holidaymakers
Capturing the attention of prospective holidaymakers is essential in order to ensure ‘stand-out’. Tourism Ireland will connect with, and deepen, its engagement with those potential visitors, ensuring its messages stand out more than ever – to influence them to choose Northern Ireland as their holiday destination. This will include targeting our best prospects overseas even more closely with tailored messages that are really relevant to them.
Digital and social media will be especially important in developing new ways of reaching, and connecting more frequently, with target audiences. Communications will be targeted more closely to their particular needs and interests, and those of their friends (particularly on social media), and will have ‘share-ability’ to ensure greater reach. Topical messages and special offers will help trigger ‘book now’ impulses and drive more referrals to the websites of Northern Ireland tourism companies. Tourism Ireland will also seek to ramp up the impact of its publicity programme around the world – placing increased focus on digital channels and working more closely with online media contacts, including bloggers. This year, Tourism Ireland’s publicity activities generated thousands of articles and broadcasts, worth an estimated £82 million.

•    Collaboration
Next year, Tourism Ireland will provide thousands of promotional engagements for Northern Ireland tourism enterprises and trade partners overseas – to help them do business overseas and facilitate them to ‘close the sale’, particularly in the digital space. Tourism Ireland will continue to work with key stakeholders and agencies, including British and Irish embassies, InvestNI and Northern Irish Connections, to enhance the image of Northern Ireland – or ‘NI plc’ – as a holiday destination and as a place in which to invest and do business. The organisation will continue to work with NI Screen, to attract and exploit future productions. Tourism Ireland will also work with VisitBritain, in accordance with the terms of its MOU (memorandum of understanding), including the roll-out of a series of visa seminars in China and India, to build awareness of the new British-Irish Visa Scheme.