Tourism Ireland hosted a stellar event at The Lotte New York Palace Hotel in New York City last night, Jan. 28, to launch its 2020 marketing plan – an extension of the 2019 “Fill Your Heart With Ireland” campaign. Guests from all over the U.S., and Ireland, filled the beautiful ballroom at the Palace for a night of celebration and discussion.
Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s head of North America and Australia, opened the event with grace and style, and the good news that tourism is booming in Ireland, and that there are high hopes that this trend will continue into 2020 and beyond. She introduced Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland’s CEO, who continued on a positive note, and made fast work of the figures, revealing that 11.2 million tourists visited Ireland last year, generating €5.8 billion for the economy, and supporting 350,000 jobs all over the country.
Metcalfe and Gibbons also touched on reasons why Ireland is a year-round destination place; the many festivals in Ireland that run throughout the year that allow visitors a personal experience of meeting locals; and the “Green is the new Black” plan to boost the annual Global Greening initiative with a big Ireland sale around St. Patrick’s Day, taking the idea of Black Friday, when retail prices are heavily discounted for 24-hours.
Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor of Travelzoo led a panel discussion on tourism in Ireland and what the future holds. The panel included, in addition to Metcalfe and Gibbons, Bridgette Brew Galway 2020’s Head of Tourism, and Bill Byrne, the Vice President of North America for Aer Lingus.
The discussion shed light on what drives tourism, what people want and the concerns people have towards traveling to and from Ireland especially with Brexit around the corner. Saglie enlightened the audience to the fact that after Brexit, Ireland will be the only English speaking country left in the EU. When asked what will make tourists return to Ireland, Gibbons touched on the strong economy, stability and safety, ease of access and, of course, the warm reception from the Irish people.
Bill Byrne, the Aer Lingus executive responsible for the airline’s North American business, also highlighted the ease of access, and the fact, that all the major U.S. cities now have direct fights into Dublin. An Irish American from Chicago, Byrne engaged the audience with recollections of his own travels to Ireland as a child and the long journey from Shannon to Mayo, contrasting that to a recent visit, when he drove from Dublin to Galway in two hours.
Another highpoint discussed was Galway City’s designation as European Capital of Culture.
Bridgette Brew talked about the program line up, which includes an astonishing 2,000 events planned. She noted that while the city will serve as the central hub of the festivities, the region’s landscape will also feature. One highly anticipated event, to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, Finnish artist Kari Kola is creating a massive lit artwork that will illuminate the Connemara Mountains.
During the Q&A portion of the talk an audience member asked after Brexit, what will happen if you are a U.S. traveler wanting to travel from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland? Niall Gibbons didn’t hesitate to reassure the entire audience with the statement “There will be no problem, it will seamless to travel between the two.” The talk set people’s minds at ease and lit their desire for the Emerald Isle a blaze.
So, book your Aer Lingus flights, pack your bags and dive into the diverse, cultural beauty by “Filling Your Heart with Ireland.”