Gibbons jpg

‘Cautious optimism’ is Tourism Ireland message for 2020

Tourism Ireland’s Niall Gibbons. photo.


By Ray O’Hanlon

Based on results in recent years Tourism Ireland Chief Executive Niall Gibbons would be entitled to express unbounded optimism for Ireland’s tourism prospects in 2020.

But he is opting for a notch down from that. “Cautious optimism,” is his view of the months ahead.

Still, even that measured assessment allows for an increase in visitor numbers to the island of Ireland.

And much of that increase, Gibbons believes, will be sourced in North America.

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His caution has easily identifiable roots. Brexit has been a generator of some uncertainty, though that has been diminishing of late and Gibbons is quick to point out that the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK will continue in spite of the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Boeing 737 Max grounding resulted in an end, for now at least, to Norwegian flights from the U.S. to Ireland.

But, Gibbons points out, there are other carriers that will fill that void, and then some.

And there is Coronavirus virus which is unwelcome in any way, shape, form and context and is clearly affecting travel plans on a global scale.

Nevertheless, Tourism Ireland’s program for 2020 is proceeding apace and is expected to gain momentum from the past few highly successful years.

With regard to North America, that being the U.S. and Canada, Gibbons is looking for an increase in visitor numbers over 2019 when more than two million landed in Ireland and delivered $2.08 billion in revenue for the island’s economy.

The U.S. and Canada are the best prospects for 2020,” he says.

This view is based on a projected four percent increase in airline seats on transatlantic routes. That will amount to 65,000 seats per week, 57,000 of those being on flights originating in the U.S.

Airlines such as Aer Lingus have expansion plans coming on stream in the next few years and, Gibbons believes, this is nothing if not a sign of confidence in the island of Ireland as a prime destination.

The raw numbers for sure exude confidence.

A release coinciding with the visit of Mr. Gibbons to New York for the formal launch of TI’s 2020 program stated: “Tourism Ireland aims to surpass the performance of 2019 and to grow revenue from North American visitors by +4% in 2020 i.e. $2.16 billion generated by 2.13 million visitors (+4%). Tourism Ireland will prioritize North America once again in 2020, as a market which offers a strong return on investment, in terms of vacationers and expenditure.”

This year’s TV ad, “Fill Your Heart With Ireland,” is running on major TV networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX in Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco and Hartford.

Stated the release: “This is phase two of Tourism Ireland’s global campaign, featuring some of our less-visited attractions and locations (including Trim Castle, the Waterford Greenway, EPIC – the Irish Emigration Museum and Rathlin Island).

“The ad is airing around popular entertainment shows with large audiences, such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Big Bang Theory and recently aired around the NFL playoffs and the 62nd annual GRAMMY Awards.”

“We are placing a strong focus spreading overseas tourism business more evenly around the entire island and encouraging more people to visit in the off-season,” said Gibbons.

At the Manhattan launch, Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s Executive Vice President for the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand said: “We have a very clear focus for the year ahead and that is to deliver a four percent plus increase in visitor numbers and four percent plus increase in revenue from North America. We will achieve this by working in close collaboration with our Irish and American tourism partners and by rolling out an extensive program of high impact campaigns and promotions which will target those consumers with greatest potential to travel to the island of Ireland.”

The city of Galway came in for special mention at the launch.

Galway is this year’s European Capital of Culture and Patricia Philbin, CEO Galway 2020 said: “Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture is delighted to be part of Tourism Ireland’s program for North America.

“After a great collective effort from our team, our partners and the people of Galway, our year as European Capital of Culture is about to commence. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Galway for what will be a wonderful year.”

And that year now moves onto its next highlight phase - that being the unique opportunity presented the island of Ireland by St. Patrick’s Day.

Niall Gibbons is duly gearing up for another year of greening iconic buildings and structures, hundreds of them around the world in over fifty countries.

There are new greenings coming on stream this year.

But they are being kept under wraps until the calendar draws closer to March 17.

All the green is under a red tarp readying for the go.

Niall Gibbons knows how to sell a product, even as he keeps part of the selling plan secret.

All will be revealed soon enough.