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17 Dec 2019

Despite a mixed year, overseas tourism set to deliver €5.8BN revenue and 11.2M visitors in 2019

2019 has been a mixed year for Irish tourism. Despite this, latest estimates indicate that, by year end, overseas tourism will have generated €5.8 billion for the economy, driven by almost 11.2 million overseas visitors, and helped to support 325,000 jobs in communities around the island.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “While 2019 has been a mixed year, overseas tourism will deliver an estimated €5.8 billion to the economy, driven by almost 11.2 million overseas visitors – just short of, last year’s record. We’ve worked hard with our industry partners, combating growing consumer concern in Britain and some important Mainland European markets arising from the continued uncertainty around Brexit, economic slowdown in some markets and the first decline in air access to Ireland in eight years. Our focus throughout the year has been to keep Ireland ‘top of mind’ for potential visitors across the world.

“Throughout 2019, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. Activity included the roll-out of our first global campaign in seven years – ‘Fill your Heart with Ireland’, campaigns to drive business to the regions and encourage more visitors to come here in the shoulder and off-seasons., city breaks campaigns for Dublin, Belfast and other urban centres, Game of Thrones and ‘Taste the Island’, as well as Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative on St Patrick’s Day, which was bigger than ever this year.”
Tourism Ireland recently launched its new three-year strategy for 2020-2022 and its marketing plans for next year. The aim is to grow overseas tourism revenue to €6.54 billion (+13%) and visitor numbers to 12 million (+7%), by 2022. Tourism Ireland aims to spread the benefits of tourism more broadly across the island of Ireland on a year-round basis and to address the issues of capacity, to ensure the visitor experience continues to be world-class. The new strategy is built on a set of sustainable destination marketing principles.

Commenting on the year ahead, Niall Gibbons said: “It is not enough to simply target growth at all costs, therefore our new, three-year strategy is built on a set of sustainable destination marketing principles. These principles will underpin all of Tourism Ireland’s activities and are reflected in our renewed emphasis on driving business to the regions and ensuring the benefits of tourism growth are distributed right around the island of Ireland, on a year-round basis. By applying these principles and through working with our partners on wider sustainability issues, we are confident that overseas tourism will help communities to prosper, while our overseas visitors continue to enjoy a great holiday experience.
“Tourism Ireland will continue to raise awareness of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East around the world. We will highlight inspirational events like Taste the Island, Galway 2020 and Púca. Working with Fáilte Ireland, Tourism NI and our tourism partners, our aim is to spread the success of overseas tourism throughout the year and around the entire island of Ireland – ensuring we maintain our renowned welcome and superb visitor experience.”


Tourism Ireland’s ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’ global ad campaign reaches 78 million TV viewers
In 2019, Tourism Ireland’s first major global advertising campaign in seven years – ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’ – was rolled out around the world, reaching around 78 million viewers on TV alone, during the year. Filming for phase two began in May and additional content was filmed this autumn, to ensure coverage of lots of additional locations and activities. The campaign aims to continue to refresh and reinvigorate the presentation of the island of Ireland overseas and features a range of less visited attractions and locations. It also highlights the passions that research shows motivate our target audience, such as landscapes and heritage, and dials up activities like walking, cycling and kayaking.

Overseas publicity – worth €350 million
Working with overseas travel, lifestyle and special interest journalists, bloggers and social influencers is an important element of the overseas promotional programme. In 2019, 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 €350 million in equivalent advertising value.

Digital and social media strength – one click away from 1 billion connections
Tourism Ireland continued to leverage its strength in digital and social media – especially important in reaching, and connecting more frequently, with our target audiences. Tourism Ireland is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (around 4.5 million fans), number four on Twitter (524,000 followers) and number four on YouTube (almost 64 million views). By year end, Tourism Ireland’s international website,, will have attracted more than 23 million visitors.

Sales mission to India and the UAE

Tourism companies from the island of Ireland – including hoteliers, visitor attractions and destination management companies – joined Tourism Ireland for its 2019 sales mission to India and the UAE and India. The delegation met and concluded deals with around 300 tour operators and travel agents in Mumbai, New Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Tourism Ireland targets travel agents in Toulouse
In January, Irish and French tourism businesses joined Tourism Ireland in Toulouse, to take part in a B2B workshop and networking event. They met with local travel agents, to inform and educate them about Ireland and, in particular, our lesser-known attractions and hidden gems. This was the first in a series of four Tourism Ireland workshops which took place in France throughout 2019 – which aimed to highlight ease of access from France to Ireland and deliver more business to Ireland’s regions in the off-peak season. Other workshops also took place in Lyon, Bordeaux and Nice.

Sales blitz to Canada

In February, a delegation of 14 tourism enterprises from Ireland took part in Tourism Ireland’s targeted sales mission to Vancouver, Calgary, Hamilton and Toronto – to grow our share of this important tourism market. A second three-city sales blitz took place in September, with 13 companies from Ireland meeting with group tour organisers and travel agents in the cities of London (south-west Ontario), Ottawa and Montreal.

Valentine’s campaign targeted romantic holidaymakers in Britain!
Tourism Ireland rolled out a campaign in Britain, on Magic Radio, for Valentine’s Day. The one-week campaign highlighted Ireland as a fantastic romantic destination for British holidaymakers in 2019 and reached around 2.7 million people. It incorporated Tourism Ireland’s campaign message, ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’, and included 30-second promotions of Ireland, as well as live messages from presenters, including Ronan Keating. The campaign highlighted the great experiences on offer here, how February is a great time of year to visit and also how Ireland is a destination that can capture your heart!

‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’ sales blitz in the United States
Tourism Ireland’s 2019 series of ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’ sales blitzes across the United States kicked off in February – in Boca Raton (Florida), Washington DC and Atlanta (Georgia). Subsequent ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’ events took place during the year in Chicago, Dallas and Boston, in April; and on the west coast of the US – in Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles (Westlake Village) – in November. The schedule included a B2B event in each city with an interactive presentation showcasing Ireland – giving the participating companies a platform to promote and sell their products and services to the key American decision-makers in attendance. Each event also included opportunities for networking with influential travel and lifestyle journalists.

‘Ireland’s Greening of the World’ book celebrates 10 years of Global Greening

To mark 10 successful years of Global Greening and to celebrate the unique global campaign, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launched Tourism Ireland’s new book, called Ireland’s Greening of the World, in March. The book tells the story of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening since it began in 2010 and how it has since captured the imagination of people everywhere. The initiative, which see hundreds of iconic landmarks around the world light up green to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick, first began in Sydney – when the Sydney Opera House went green on 17 March 2010, on the 200th anniversary of an historic event celebrating Ireland, hosted by the then Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie.

Global Greening season – 470 sites in 55 countries
Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day was bigger and better than ever before in 2019 – generating more than €10 million worth of positive publicity for Ireland across the world. New sites for 2019 included the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (the world’s tallest building), Victoria Falls, York’s medieval City Walls, Lord’s Cricket Pavilion in London, Nation Towers in Abu Dhabi, the Atakule Tower in Ankara and the Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA in Japan (where Ireland played Japan in the Rugby World Cup in September). Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative has truly gone from strength to strength, with around 470 iconic landmarks and sites in 55 different countries lighting up green this year, including the Colosseum in Rome, the London Eye, the Great Wall of China, Niagara Falls and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Tourism Ireland’s ‘Glass of Thrones’ campaign reaches 29+ million fans

In April, 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 eighth and final season, the campaign – called ‘Glass of Thrones’ – was designed to encourage fans to make a pilgrimage to Belfast, where much of the world’s most popular TV show was filmed. As each episode of the final season aired, six beautifully crafted, freestanding stained-glass windows were installed across Belfast – creating a brand new trail for fans from around the world. Each window highlights a key House from the show, with a series of panels depicting the most exciting and talked-about moments from the entire saga.

‘A Digital Day in the Life of Ireland’
Tourism Ireland and – the world’s largest travel storytelling app – invited 28 of North America’s most followed and popular travel influencers (with a combined following of more 53+ million), as well as actor Tom Skerritt, to visit the island of Ireland. At 12:01 am on Sunday, 28 April, the influencers were dispatched around Ireland, tasked with creating multi-media stories for the Steller app. They had exactly 24 hours to create their stories – through video and photos. The series of stories they created were then collated into a new collection on the Steller platform – called ‘A Digital Day in the Life of Ireland’ – revealing what 24 hours on the island of Ireland has to offer for travellers everywhere. Their stories focused particularly on our hidden gems and lesser-known attractions and experiences.

Biggest ever sales mission to China

Tourism Ireland’s biggest ever sales mission to China took place in May. A record 26 tourism businesses from Ireland, as well as five tourism industry leaders, took part in the targeted mission to Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing – to grow our share of this important emerging tourism market. Prior to the sales mission, Tourism Ireland announced its intention to double its marketing investment in China, to €1 million, and to also double its marketing team to 12 – to grow Chinese visitor numbers to 200,000 by 2025.

New strategy to grow tourism from Britain

In June, a new strategy was unveiled to grow tourism from Britain. The strategy set out an ambitious target to grow revenue from British holidaymakers by +25%, to €705 million, by 2022 – while ensuring continued regional growth and season extension. The strategy was developed cognisant of the ongoing Brexit negotiations and uncertainty; and the recommendations of the strategy remain valid and can be flexed under all potential outcomes of the negotiations.

The strategy stressed the importance of ‘unlocking the lifetime value of British holidaymakers’. British holidaymakers return to the island of Ireland time and time again. A key finding of the strategy included a change in behaviour when British holidaymakers return to Ireland. Repeat holidaymakers tend to be more adventurous; they are more likely to come for longer, spend more and venture beyond our cities into the regions. As many British holidaymakers come back time and time again, this makes them an important group to nurture.

Ireland voted ‘Best European Destination’ at The Group Travel Awards
For the third year in a row, Ireland triumphed at The Group Travel Awards in Britain and was voted Best European Destination – beating off stiff competition from destinations like Prague, Germany, Belgium, Cyprus and Switzerland 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.

Campaign capitalises on Open ‘hype’

Following the hugely successful 148th Open in July, Tourism Ireland launched a golf campaign in Britain to harness the excitement of the tournament and continue to leverage the tourism benefit and the fact that all eyes were on Royal Portrush and Northern Ireland. The campaign included a new partnership with The Daily Telegraph – both the print and online versions – which ran until the end of August. The Telegraph has a combined print and online reach of around 22 million and the partnership also involved Tourism Ireland working with golfing greats Padraig Harrington and Leona Maguire.

€12 million autumn campaign launched

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 – like the new Púca Festival, the Galway International Oyster Festival, Savour Kilkenny, Cork Jazz Festival, Wexford Festival Opera and New Year Festival (NYF) Dublin – to drive more overseas tourism business to our regions, throughout the off-peak and shoulder season months.

Celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna joins Tourism Ireland to launch Taste the Island in Britain

Tourism Ireland teamed up with celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna, to launch Taste the Island in Britain – with Clodagh creating a ‘harvest lunch’ in the grounds of her home, Broadspear House, which is located in Highclere Park, where Highclere Castle, the set for Downton Abbey, is located. Tourism Ireland invited leading British food writers and influencers, as well as broadcast journalists, to the special foodie event. Subsequent promotions to highlight the exciting Taste the Island initiative included a launch in France to around 100 travel agents in Lyon – often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France. And, in October, 12 top tour operators from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Belgium and the Netherlands participated in a Taste the Island fact-finding ‘foodie’ visit to Ireland.

Tourism Ireland’s Game of Thrones Tapestry goes on display in Bayeux
Tourism Ireland’s hand-crafted Game of Thrones Tapestry went on display in Bayeux, Normandy, in September. It is being exhibited in the historic Hôtel du Doyen in Bayeux until 31 December, within walking distance of the legendary 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry – which was a key source of inspiration for its new neighbour. Tourism Ireland’s Game of Thrones Tapestry was created in 2017, in conjunction with HBO and National Museums Northern Ireland – featuring some of the most memorable and exciting scenes from season one to season seven. After the final episode of season eight aired earlier this year, a team of 30 volunteer stitchers completed the final section of the tapestry and it is now 87 metres long.

Tourism Ireland voted ‘Best Destination’ at World Routes Awards 2019
In September, Tourism Ireland fought off tough competition to secure a major win at the World Routes Awards, taking the ‘Best Destination’ award. The awards have been running for 25 years and recognise excellence in airport and route development marketing. The winners are decided by the votes of international airlines.

‘Flavours of Ireland’ in London

Tourism Ireland’s ‘Flavours of Ireland’ B2B tourism workshop took place in October – with tourism companies from Ireland meeting and doing business with around 120 top UK inbound tour operators who bring business to Ireland and the UK from all over the world (including the US, Mainland Europe, Asia, Australasia and Africa).

Lonely Planet declares Galway the fourth best city in the world to visit in 2020
Galway was named the fourth best city in the world to visit in 2020 by Lonely Planet – coming in ahead of cities like La Paz, Vancouver and Denver. The leading travel media company unveiled the accolade in October, in the prestigious Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 – 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 for Galway, with promotional campaigns in Britain, the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Record presence at world’s largest travel fair

In November, 80 Irish tourism businesses joined Tourism Ireland in London, at this year’s World Travel Market (WTM), to negotiate business for 2020. World Travel Market is the largest B2B event in the global travel and tourism calendar, with around 51,000 travel professionals from 182 countries and regions around the world attending, including 3,000 international travel media. Tourism Ireland, together with Tourism NI, launched Northern Ireland – Embrace A Giant Spirit, a new tourism brand for Northern Ireland at this year’s World Travel Market.

70 million Americans tune in to Ireland
Tourism Ireland kicked off a major US$1.7 million promotional campaign for 2020 in the all-important American market – with a five-week TV campaign reaching 70+ million people. Tourism Ireland’s ads – ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’ – are airing on major networks, including NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox, in the key cities of Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. The ads will run until the end of the year and have been specially timed to coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the final week of the campaign, the ads will also air in Seattle, San Francisco and New York – as the week between Christmas and New Year is a key vacation-planning period for Americans.

Targeting luxury travel business for the island of Ireland
Earlier this month, 24 tourism businesses from Ireland joined Tourism Ireland in Cannes, for the annual International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM). ILTM is an invitation-only event for the global luxury travel industry – which attracts more than 1,800 influential travel agents and decision-makers from 80 different countries, who design unique, luxury travel itineraries for their high net-worth international clients; as well as luxury travel editors and journalists from around 200 international publications.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, at Tourism Ireland’s end-of-year review.

Notes To Editors

  • Tourism Ireland is the organisation responsible for promoting the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination.
  • Tourism is the island of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry; responsible for in excess of 4% of GNP in the Republic of Ireland and employing around 325,000 people across the island.
  • By the end of 2019, we will have welcomed almost 11.2 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of almost €5.8 billion.
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, 29 market sites available in 11 language versions around the world, which attracted around 23+ million visitors in 2019.