Tourism Ireland targets +25% growth in Spanish and Italian visitors
Spain and Italy offer significant potential for tourism to Northern Ireland, according to two new Tourism Ireland strategies launched today in Belfast.
The strategies set out challenging and ambitious targets which will see the island of Ireland welcome almost 3.8 million Spanish and Italian visitors between now and 2020 – 825,000 visitors per year from both countries by 2020 – representing growth of +25%.
Key factors working in our favour to enable growth from Spain
- recent strong performance: in 2014, visitor numbers from Spain to Northern Ireland grew by +23%;
- approximately 21% of all Spanish visitors to the island of Ireland visit in Q4 – a real opportunity for Northern Ireland tourism operators to win business at a time when there is capacity in accommodation and other tourism facilities;
- direct easyJet flight from Barcelona to Belfast;
- interest in visiting Northern Ireland is high among Spaniards; and
- approximately 98% of Spanish visitors are independent travellers, with around 95% booking part of their trip online. Spaniards are also heavy users of social and digital media and are hugely influenced by word of mouth.
Key factors working in our favour to enable growth from Italy
over the next four years include:
- recent strong performance: in 2014, visitor numbers from Italy to Northern Ireland grew by +13%;
- some 71% of all Italian visitors to Northern Ireland come specifically for holidays;
- the legacy effect of the Giro d’Italia in Northern Ireland in 2014 – Tourism Ireland generated huge publicity around the event in Italy, giving a significant boost to the profile of Northern Ireland among Italians;
- a new direct Ryanair flight from Milan to Belfast (from September); and
- interest in visiting Northern Ireland is high among our ‘culturally curious’ audience.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Spain and Italy have performed extremely well for tourism to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland in recent years and the future is undoubtedly bright. We believe that both are markets of considerable potential over the coming years. However, we certainly don’t take the performance for granted; we need to adapt and respond to new opportunities to ensure that success continues. I am confident that our new, focused strategies will deliver on the challenging targets we have set for growth in Spanish and Italian visitors, between now and 2020.”
The Tourism Ireland strategies have been developed in close co-operation with a wide range of industry partners, at home and in Spain and Italy. They have identified the opportunities which will drive accelerated growth from both countries to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland over the coming four years.
Finola O'Mahony, Tourism Ireland's Head of Europe; Niamh Kinsella, Tourism Ireland’s Manager Italy; Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland; and Barbara Wood, Tourism Ireland’s Manager Spain, at the Belfast launch of Tourism Ireland’s new strategies to boost tourism from Spain and Italy.
Notes To Editors
TOURISM IRELAND’S STRATEGY FOR SPAIN
Tourism Ireland’s new strategy for Spain has identified the various challenges and opportunities that face the island of Ireland between now and 2020. The areas which will help to deliver the ambitious growth targets include:
TOURISM IRELAND’S STRATEGY FOR ITALY
- Focusing on Ireland’s ‘best prospect’ audiences
Tourism Ireland’s primary focus for marketing in Spain will be our ‘culturally curious’ audience, particularly for spring and summer travel. These are people who like to get under the skin of a destination, visit places of historical and cultural importance and look for something unique and different from home.
Tourism Ireland’s secondary focus will be ‘social energisers’. The organisation will leverage their higher tendency to travel in the shoulder season (approximately 21% of all Spanish visitors arrive in Q4). This group represents a real opportunity for Northern Ireland tourism operators at a time of year when they are likely to have more available capacity. Spanish ‘social energisers’ like to explore cities and discover their cultural and social offerings, enjoy fun nightlife in cool, trendy places, visit new destinations and share unique experiences with their friends.
- Co-operating with key partners
Tourism Ireland will undertake co-operative advertising with partners – including Spanish online travel agents (OTAs), tour operators and carriers – at key times for travel decision-making, highlighting great reasons to travel to Northern Ireland, as well as good value fares and offers. Particular focus will be on leveraging these partnerships to roll out ad campaigns that will expand Northern Ireland’s presence on TV, in newspapers and on radio, as well as in digital media.
Tourism Ireland will also work with Northern Ireland tourism industry partners, to bring market-appropriate offers and stories about Northern Ireland to the attention of potential Spanish visitors.
- Ramping up publicity
Tourism Ireland will step up its publicity campaign in Spain, targeting influencers and opinion-leaders – including influential bloggers – to generate positive word of mouth about Northern Ireland.
- Harnessing digital and social media
Tourism Ireland will leverage its strength in digital and social media, to stimulate conversations about Northern Ireland – involving potential and repeat visitors, as well as tourism partners.
The areas which will help to deliver the ambitious growth targets from Italy include:
- Focusing on our ‘best prospect’ audience
Tourism Ireland will intensify its focus in Italy on our ‘culturally curious’ segment. These are people who travel to experience life like the locals and to get under the skin of a destination. Compared to ‘culturally curious’ visitors from other countries, Italians are looking for buzz and excitement. However, they are also more inclined to stick to what they have already heard about – so it will be important to generate recommendations for Northern Ireland from Italian opinion-formers and previous visitors and to highlight these to potential visitors.
- Highlighting ease of access
Tourism Ireland will highlight the new Ryanair flight between Milan and Belfast, as well as the ease of getting around once here, by increasing awareness of good value fares and of public transport options.
- Encouraging regional and seasonal spread
Tourism Ireland will work to grow Italian visitor numbers in the shoulder season –spreading the word that our cities are always in season and have breathtaking scenery on their doorsteps. Places like Strangford Lough hold particular appeal for Italian travellers.
- Influencing opinion-formers
Tourism Ireland will seek to influence Italian opinion-formers who can help spread the Northern Ireland message and keep Northern Ireland top of mind and ‘in the conversation’ in social and other media. The organisation will intensify its marketing through digital and social channels and through publicity, with renewed emphasis on digital PR, including working with influential bloggers.
- Showcasing the quality of Northern Ireland food
Tourism Ireland will highlight the quality of Northern Ireland food – including Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink – because it has the power to motivate Italian visitors to come here. Food is important to Italians because they see it as part of our culture and a reflection of the unique and stunning landscape it comes from and the people who produce and supply it.
- Highlighting Northern Ireland’s warmth, hospitality and fun
Tourism Ireland will highlight the warmth, hospitality and fun of Northern Ireland and the various experiences on offer here that are different to those Italians can have at home.