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13 Dec 2017

Tourism Ireland looks back on a record year for Irish tourism

€5.78 billion overseas tourism revenue in 2017, delivered by 10.65 million visitors

2017 has been the best year ever for overseas tourism to the island of Ireland, with revenue generated by international visitors in the region of €5.78 billion (+6.7% on 2016), delivered by some 10.65 million visitors. Growth has come from all our main markets around the world, with the exception of Britain – with record numbers arriving here from North America, Mainland Europe, Australia and developing markets. 

Tourism Ireland today reflected on highlights of its promotional activity around the world in 2017. These have included campaigns for Ireland’s Ancient East, Dublin, the Wild Atlantic Way, Game of Thrones, a campaign to capitalise on the Women’s Rugby World Cup, as well as Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative on St Patrick’s Day, which was bigger than ever before this year.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, said: “2017 looks set to be another record year for overseas tourism to Ireland. The latest CSO figures indicate that over 8.5 million people visited during the January to October period, an increase of +3.1%, or an additional 254,000 overseas visitors, when compared with 2016. Overseas tourism is likely to contribute over €4.9 billion to the Irish economy this year, helping to sustain 225,000 jobs in communities around the country. In Budget 2018, the Government continued to support the tourism sector with a €2 million capital investment in digital tourism marketing, increased funding for signature experience brands such as the Lakelands Region and for Greenways, as well as retaining the lower 9% VAT rate. The continued growth of the sector over the last number of years is testament to the great work being done all across the sector and today, I want to congratulate Tourism Ireland on another very successful year.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Throughout 2017, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. A major focus of our activity was Ireland’s Ancient East, Dublin, the Wild Atlantic Way and Northern Ireland; other important themes have included screen tourism and, in particular, Game of Thrones.”

At the beginning of this month, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans to promote Ireland in 2018, with a target to grow overseas tourism revenue by +5%, to €6 billion for the economies north and south, next year. 

Commenting on the year ahead, Niall Gibbons said: “We are heading into 2018 in a position of some strength, based on the success of 2017. Over the coming weeks and months, Tourism Ireland will once again leverage the huge global popularity of Star Wars for Irish tourism. We will launch the first phase of our new Star Wars campaign next week, targeting fans of the science fiction franchise everywhere. 

“In 2018, Tourism Ireland will create ‘stand out’ for the island of Ireland around the world, highlighting iconic experiences like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route. We will also promote Dublin and Belfast, in particular for shoulder and off-peak travel.” 


Overseas publicity – worth €327 million
Working with overseas travel, lifestyle and special interest media is an important element of the overseas promotional programme. In 2017, thousands of opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about the island of Ireland. Tourism Ireland estimates that this exposure is worth an estimated €327 million in equivalent advertising value. 

Digital strength – 800+ million digital connections
Tourism Ireland continued to leverage its strength in digital and social media – especially important in developing new ways of reaching, and connecting more frequently, with our target audiences. Tourism Ireland is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (almost 4.1 million fans), number four on Twitter (457,000 followers) and number three on YouTube (40.8 million views). By year end, Tourism Ireland’s international website,, will have attracted about 19.3 million visitors. 

Improved access 
2017 saw a number of really positive announcements on the important access front, including new routes introduced by a range of carriers. These included a new Qatar Airways service between Doha and Dublin; and a new Aer Lingus flight to Dublin from Miami, as well as expanded services on Aer Lingus flights from Los Angeles, Chicago and Orlando. There were more than 550,000 direct, one-way airline seats to the island of Ireland available during summer 2017; this was a record and a +4% increase in capacity over summer 2016. 

And announcements for 2018 augur well for the continued success of overseas tourism. These include a new Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Dublin, Ireland’s first ever direct flight from the Asia-Pacific region; new Aer Lingus flights from Seattle and Philadelphia; Air Canada services between Toronto and Shannon and between Montreal and Dublin; as well as increased Ryanair services from Germany. Irish Ferries will introduce its new ferry, the WB Yeats, in July – which will mean double the current number of sailings between France and Ireland, with daily departures in alternate directions.


Ireland on national TV across the United States
In January, Tourism Ireland launched its first national TV campaign in the United States in over seven years. The month-long campaign reached an estimated 255 million potential American holidaymakers, on TV channels which resonate with our important ‘culturally curious’ audience, including the History channel, Food Network, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and BBC America.

‘Jump into Ireland’ sales blitz kicks off in the United States
Tourism Ireland’s 2017 series of ‘Jump into Ireland’ sales blitzes across the United States kicked off in February – in Washington DC, Atlanta and Boca Raton. Subsequent ‘Jump into Ireland’ events took place during the year in Austin, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco. The ‘Jump into Ireland’ schedule included a B2B event in each city for the Irish delegations, showcasing the island of Ireland to the influential American travel professionals in attendance, via a travel TV show format. Each event also included an opportunity for networking with influential travel and lifestyle journalists.

Global Greening season – 299 sites in 45 countries
Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day was bigger and better than ever before in 2017 – generating more than €10 million worth of positive publicity for Ireland across the world. This year, One World Trade Center (the main building of the re-built World Trade Center complex in New York and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere), the beautiful Petit Palais on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in Barcelona were illuminated in green for the first time ever to celebrate St Patrick. Other first time ‘greenings’ included four of Australia’s famous ‘Big Things’ – The Big Banana, The Big Kangaroo, The Big Merino and The Big Tasmanian Devil. Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative has truly gone from strength to strength, with more than 299 landmark buildings and iconic sites in 45 countries around the world taking part this year, including the Colosseum in Rome, the Sacré Cœur basilica in Paris, the Great Wall of China, Niagara Falls and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.  

Ireland ranked No 3 in the world for tourism marketing and branding
In April, the World Economic Forum announced the results of its global Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017. The biennial report ranked Ireland at number three in the world, out of 136 countries, for ‘effectiveness of marketing and branding to attract tourists’. This meant that Ireland moved from number five in the world, when the index was last compiled in 2015, to number three – ahead of Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and France.

Sales mission to China
Tourism Ireland’s 2017 sales mission to China saw a delegation of 17 tourism enterprises from the island of Ireland meet and conclude deals with leading Chinese tour operators and travel agents in the key cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. 

Website is a big hit! Tourism Ireland’s website,, wins top award in France
Tourism Ireland scooped the top prize for ‘best tourist board website’ at the French hospitality industry’s ‘Les Travel d’Or’ awards. Beating off stiff competition from four other destination websites (including Britain, Mauritius, La Réunion and Guadeloupe), the Tourism Ireland site,, was voted number one for its winning appeal and content by some 200,000 internet users from around France and by a panel of web and travel industry experts. This was the fourth time that Tourism Ireland won a Travel d’Or award – considered the ‘Oscars’ of the e-tourism industry in France. 

The Italian job for Ireland! 29 million Italians saw Ireland ads on metros and buses and in airports
Tourism Ireland teamed up with Francorosso, one of Italy’s leading tour operators, in a new campaign to grow tourism from Italy. The “moving TV” campaign – played an Ireland video on more than 3,453 screens in 72 metro stations and on board 69 metro trains, in the cities of Milan, Rome and Brescia; the video was also played on 500 buses in Milan and on about 280 screens in 13 different airports around Italy. The campaign also included email marketing and social media, which reached an estimated 29.1 million Italians, or potential holidaymakers for Ireland. It promoted the Ireland holiday programmes of Francorosso and drove bookings for summer with an attractive package offer.

Tourism Ireland’s Game of Thrones campaign scooped gold, silver and bronze at the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity – the ‘Oscars’ of the ad industry
Tourism Ireland’s Game of Thrones campaign scooped three awards – a gold, a silver and a bronze – at the prestigious Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in June. The Cannes Lions awards are highly coveted and generally regarded as the Oscars of the advertising and marketing world. The Tourism Ireland campaign was awarded a Gold Lion for ‘Outdoor – Special Build’; in all, 20 campaigns were shortlisted for this particular category, including the likes of Nike, Microsoft and Heineken. Tourism Ireland also took the Silver Lion for ‘Use of Ambient Outdoor’ and a Bronze Lion for ‘Use of Social Platforms’. These accolades were particularly noteworthy given that the festival organisers announced that a total of 41,170 award entries had been received, across 24 different Lions categories.

Ireland voted ‘Best European Destination’ at The Group Travel Awards
In June, Ireland triumphed at The Group Travel Awards in London, after being voted Best European Destination – beating off stiff competition from other destinations like Belgium, Germany, Iceland and Malta to claim the title. The annual awards celebrate and recognise the best destinations, events, accommodation, transport providers and attractions for the British group travel industry – as voted for by readers of GTO (Group Travel Organiser) magazine. 

Tourism Ireland’s Game of Thrones campaign reaches 70+ million 
In July, Tourism Ireland joined forces once again with HBO and its hit TV series Game of Thrones, to promote Northern Ireland around the world. Timed to coincide with the return of the seventh season of Game of Thrones, this year’s campaign was bigger than ever before – featuring an 80-metre long, Bayeux-style tapestry which told the story so far from season 1 to season 6 – giving fans a chance to re-visit all the key events which led to the season 7 premiere. As season 7 unfolded, new sections of the tapestry were revealed each week, in the build-up to the next episode, capturing key events from the previous week. Tourism Ireland shared these new sections via social media – using a mix of cinemagraphs (“living” photographs), time-lapse videos of the weaving process, carousels and Instagram Stories – to bring the creation of the tapestry to life. 

Score for tourism! Tourism Ireland rolled out Women’s Rugby World Cup campaign
Also in July, Tourism Ireland rolled out a special promotional campaign to leverage the tourism benefits of the Women’s Rugby World Cup – urging rugby fans and potential visitors everywhere to come for the games and then stay for the craic. Our campaign activity included a new video, highlighting the welcoming nature of Ireland and its people; a specially created page on Tourism Ireland’s international website,; as well as extensive social media activity and a major PR and publicity push to Tourism Ireland’s 20,000 international media contacts.
Autumn campaign with a festival focus
Tourism Ireland launched its autumn promotional campaign, to boost late-season travel to Ireland from around the world. The campaign highlighted the many festivals and events taking place right around the island – from the Dublin Theatre Festival to the Bram Stoker Festival and Culture Night, Galway International Oyster Festival, Belfast International Arts Festival, Waterford Harvest Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Savour Kilkenny, Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, Wexford Festival Opera and New Year Festival (NYF) Dublin. 

Kodaline starred in new Tourism Ireland campaign with Vevo
Tourism Ireland teamed up with Vevo, a popular music video and entertainment platform, to create a new Dublin video starring Kodaline. The video was part of a novel promotion to showcase the city to ‘social energisers’ in Britain during the autumn months. Filming took place at various locations around Dublin, with the four band members taking viewers on a journey around their favourite places to shop, eat, drink and hang out. 

Ireland comes to New York and Beverly Hills through new partnership
In September, Tourism Ireland teamed up with the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and Beverly Hills. Eye-catching window installations and in-store displays in the Saks flagship stores in New York and Beverly Hills showcased the island of Ireland – including Dublin, Ireland’s Ancient East, the Wild Atlantic Way, Northern Ireland and our world-class golf. In addition, a double-page spread all about Ireland featured in the Saks Fifth Avenue fall fashion book – which reached customers in stores, through direct mail and online (via

Sales mission to the UAE and India
Twelve tourism operators from the island of Ireland joined Tourism Ireland for its 2017 sales mission to the UAE and India. With approximately 100,000 visitors from the UAE and India travelling to Ireland in 2016, Tourism Ireland is committed to growing tourism from these markets further in 2018 and beyond. 

President Michael D Higgins lends a hand to promote tourism to Ireland
In October, President Michael D Higgins undertook a State Visit to Australia and New Zealand. During the visit, President Higgins was the guest of honour at events hosted by Tourism Ireland in Sydney and Auckland, where he met with leading representatives of the Australian and New Zealand travel industry – including tour operators, airlines and travel journalists.  

Belfast and the Causeway Coast named the Top Region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet
Belfast and the Causeway Coast were named the Number One Region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet – coming in ahead of places like Alaska, the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France and the Aeolian islands in Italy. The leading travel media company unveiled the accolade in the prestigious Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018 – its collection of the world’s hottest trends, destinations and experiences for the coming year. Tourism Ireland has been taking – and will take – every opportunity to maximise this accolade, using it as another hook to continue to promote Belfast and the Causeway Coast around the world as a ‘must visit’ destination. 

Accolades for Dublin and Clare
In November, National Geographic Traveler magazine revealed its ‘Best of the World’ 2018, its annual list of the 21 ‘must see’ destinations to visit in the year ahead – and Dublin was among the magazine’s top picks for best cities. Also in November, Co Clare was named one of the ‘Best Places to Go’ in 2018 by one of the world’s most reputable travel guidebooks, Frommer’s. The Frommer’s team of editors and writers chooses locations they believe are the best holiday destinations for the year ahead. They cited Star Wars: The Last Jedi as one of the calling cards that led to the inclusion of Co Clare on the list, stating that “The rugged western coast of Ireland isn’t just one of the best places to go in the world; it’s among the best in the galaxy”. 

Tourism Ireland promotion is ‘out of this world’
With Star Wars fans everywhere eagerly awaiting The Last Jedi, Tourism Ireland kicked off the celebrations around the film’s imminent release with a fun publicity stunt – the first ever tourism campaign in space! Perched above the earth in space, a billboard ad highlighted “Earth’s Wild Atlantic Way” with an image of Skellig Michael, otherwise known as Luke Skywalker’s hide-out in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The billboard was launched into space using a weather balloon, to reach a peak altitude of 33,390 metres – where a photo and short film of the ad were then captured. Tourism Ireland shared the photo and film with its 20,000 international media contacts; and via social media – with its 4+ million Facebook fans and 451,000+ followers on Twitter around the world. The aim was to create some excitement just before The Last Jedi is released and to remind fans everywhere that locations in counties Cork, Kerry, Clare and Donegal will represent the planet Ahch-to in the film – due to hit the big screen later this week, on 15 December.
  Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin and Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, at Tourism Ireland’s end-of-year review.