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16 Dec 2020

Restarting overseas tourism to Northern Ireland in 2021

~ Tourism Ireland outlines plans to restart overseas tourism ~

~ New ‘Let’s get back to Ireland’ online film will build anticipation for future visits ~

Tourism Ireland will share its plans for restarting overseas tourism in 2021, today (16 December) – at a virtual event, called ‘Ready for Recovery’, which will be attended by hundreds of tourism companies from around the island of Ireland and overseas.

After a devastating 2020 – with COVID-19 causing havoc for the travel and tourism industry across the globe – 2021 will see the restart of international travel. Tourism Ireland is actively planning for that restart. The organisation has a three-phase plan to RESTART, REBUILD and ultimately REDESIGN demand. The priority for next year will be to RESTART tourism to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland.

Right now, Tourism Ireland is planning a significant kick-start campaign, which will be launched when the time is right, possibly around St Patrick’s Day 2021 – to drive bookings and revenue for tourism businesses. It will deliver a very clear ‘book now’ message to create demand for summer holidays here, in order to save businesses and create jobs.

Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds MLA, said: “The tourism industry is worth around £1 billion and sustains 70,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and was severely impacted virtually overnight by Covid-19. Now, however, with vaccinations beginning to roll out, we have real cause for optimism. I am pleased that Tourism Ireland is planning to start a major marketing campaign to bring tourists back to Northern Ireland, as we look to rebuild what is a central component of our economy.”

Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “This has been a catastrophic year for everyone in our industry, but I do believe that tourism can, and will, recover from this pandemic. Recent news about vaccines is really positive and gives us hope for travel in 2021. In our research, Northern Ireland and Ireland have consistently been among the destinations that holidaymakers say they would be most comfortable visiting, even while social distancing measures are in place. So, while we in Tourism Ireland certainly don’t underestimate the challenges that may lie ahead, we look to 2021 with hope and optimism.

“As international travel begins to restart next year, it is clear that keeping Northern Ireland front and centre in consumers’ minds will be critical. Every destination across the globe has experienced the impact of COVID and will be seeking their share of the recovery. When the time is right, Tourism Ireland will need to punch through the noise and create an immediate desire to visit. Flexibility, above all, will be absolutely key.”

Tourism Ireland’s end-of-year promotional activity
Christmas is traditionally a key holiday-planning period for the year ahead. Tourism Ireland will roll out a major digital video campaign during this Christmas holiday period, to build anticipation for future trips here. Called ‘Let’s get back to Ireland’, the online film will be promoted on social media in 12 different markets, including GB, the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, the Nordic countries and the UAE. To view the film, click here.

A campaign targeting the Diaspora is under way in GB, the US and Canada. This will run until mid-January in print and digital media, such as, Celtic Life International magazine, The Irish Post and The Irish World newspapers, to encourage the Diaspora to travel home, as soon as it is possible to do so.

Tourism Ireland’s global social campaign – #FillYourHeartWithIreland – which has been running since April, will continue into 2021.  To date, the campaign has achieved excellent engagement with fans and followers on social media, delivering 541 million impressions (or opportunities to see) on Facebook channels and 37 million video views. This month, it includes a special #ChristmasInIreland promotion.

Looking to 2021
While remaining very flexible and ready to adapt quickly to changing conditions, Tourism Ireland has developed a clear plan. This will include the launch of a significant new kick-start campaign, as soon as the time is right. While Tourism Ireland will remain active in all markets, closer-to-home markets and North America are likely to provide the greatest opportunities in 2021.

Highlights of activity in the pipeline for 2021 include:
‘The Green Button’ campaign
: a major new campaign will be launched, possibly around St Patrick’s Day, with a very clear ‘book now’ message. The campaign – called ‘The Green Button’ – will single-mindedly drive visitor numbers and intention to book a trip to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland in 2021. Filming for the campaign will take place early next year. It will include a focus on outdoor experiences and will feature some of our iconic attractions – including Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and Trinity College, to name but some. The concept revolves around creating a commitment to travel here by ‘pressing the green button’ – green being the universal colour of ‘go’ and instinctively connected with the island of Ireland and St Patrick’s Day.

Northern Ireland: Embrace a Giant Spirit campaign: Tourism Ireland will roll out a new ‘Northern Ireland: Embrace a Giant Spirit’ campaign in GB, highlighting Northern Ireland as a great choice for a ‘staycation’ to GB travellers.

Redeveloped and enhanced digital marketing capability: digital marketing has been increasingly important for Tourism Ireland in recent years. However, 2021 will see a step-change in its capabilities in this area. A significant redesign of Tourism Ireland’s international website,, has been under way throughout 2020. The new site is currently going live; in all, there will be 33 market sites, in 30 different countries, in 11 languages. It will be fundamental to Tourism Ireland’s proposed kick-start success in 2021.

Tourism Ireland will also double its email database of consumers around the world; this will ensure a ‘warm audience’, known to be interested in visiting – and ready to be persuaded to visit, when the time is right.

Screen tourism: Tourism Ireland will continue to highlight Northern Ireland’s connection with Game of Thrones and, in particular, will harness the opportunities presented by the new Game of Thrones studio tour at the Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, which is due to open in the summer.

Major broadcasts in 2021: as international travel begins to restart next year, it will be more important than ever before to keep Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland ‘top of mind’ with potential visitors. Major broadcasts in the pipeline for next year include Adrian Dunbar’s Scenic Ireland on Channel 5; Hidden Ireland, hosted by respected American travel journalist Peter Greenberg, also on PBS; and Golf’s Greatest Holes on Sky Sports.

Virtual trade promotions: Tourism Ireland, together with 320 tourism industry partners, will participate in around 25 virtual trade promotions in Q1 2021 – meeting, and doing business with, important travel trade contacts in 10 different markets. These will include ITB Berlin NOW, the PGA Merchandise Show, the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show, as well as virtual sales missions to the GCC, Austria and Switzerland.

Global Greening 2021: hundreds of iconic landmarks and buildings around the world will take part in Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening 2021 initiative around St Patrick’s Day. From Brussels to Buenos Aires and from Sydney to San Francisco, a host of buildings and sites around the world will light up in green. This will be the 12th year of Global Greening.

Flexibility and agility will be key elements of Tourism Ireland’s work in 2021.

Niall Gibbons said: “Once this crisis is past and the island of Ireland is open again to overseas visitors, we in Tourism Ireland will be ready to play our part in delivering a sustainable recovery, for the long-term future of our industry. We know that, while unquestionably the short-term priority for our industry is to restore economic sustainability, our success in attracting future overseas visitors will be increasingly dependent on the demonstration of environmental and community sustainability as well. We will be doing everything that we can to recover as much business as possible and to return our great industry to growth.”

Tourism Ireland’s success in supporting the restart of overseas tourism and driving business development is dependent on many factors. However, there are three key pillars of action:
  • Consumer motivation: Tourism Ireland will continue to monitor the global impact of COVID-19. Its extensive programme of COVID research will continue in 2021, with findings informing its promotional activity and plans. Other research projects will look at the potential of luxury travel and ‘ultra high net worth’ travellers, as well as the potential of the golf and outdoor activities market.
  • Air and sea access: as an island destination, connectivity is critical. Working with air and sea carriers, Tourism Ireland will work to secure the return of vital routes in 2021 and beyond.
  • Industry and travel trade: Tourism Ireland will continue to support its tourism industry partners across the island of Ireland, as well as the travel trade overseas, to ensure maximum sales opportunities are achieved.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland; and Joan O’Shaughnessy, Chairman of Tourism Ireland, at Tourism Ireland’s ‘Ready for Recovery’ virtual event.

Notes To Editors

  • RESTART, REBUILD and REDESIGN: Tourism Ireland has a three-phase plan to RESTART, REBUILD and ultimately REDESIGN demand. The RESTART phase will involve a range of kick-start activities in markets which are likely to deliver visitor volume quickly, as soon as the time is right in 2021. As demand begins to return, the REBUILD phase will involve promotions in markets with the greatest potential to generate revenue. Demand management will be introduced in the REDESIGN phase, to ensure tourism has a sustainable future.
  • Tourism recovery taskforces: Tourism Ireland has been fully engaged with the Tourism Recovery Steering Group in Northern Ireland; and with the Tourism Recovery Taskforce and Aviation Recovery Taskforce in Ireland. These workstreams and their recommendations – along with government policy direction in both jurisdictions – will shape the future of tourism to the island of Ireland.
  • Enhanced a significant redesign of Tourism Ireland’s international website,, has been under way throughout 2020. The new is going live in December and January and will be fundamental to Tourism Ireland’s proposed kick-start success in 2021. It is not only a website redesign but a fundamental upgrade to Tourism Ireland’s marketing technology capabilities. Enhancements include:
    • Increased personalisation: visitors to the site are served content based on their interests and readiness to visit, to nudge them to book a holiday to Ireland.
    • Richer functionality: improved consumer experience e.g. a new social media-style feed for discovery and exploration.
    • Improved offers management: improved performance for tourism industry and travel trade partners.
    • Mobile centric: reflecting consumer preferences and behaviour.
    • Performance: a significantly faster site, resulting in greater engagement.
    • More efficient: an easier-to-use content management system.