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Tourism Ireland on GCC mission

Tourism Ireland plans to ramp up its efforts to increase trade awareness of the country known as the Emerald Isle next year by staging several agent fam trips.

Tourism Ireland plans to ramp up its efforts to increase trade awareness of the country known as the Emerald Isle next year by staging several agent fam trips.

“We need the trade to be confident in selling Ireland. To start off in 2007, we will focus on educating the trade in the UAE and Bahrain, because that’s where the flights [to Ireland] are [from] at present,” explained the organisation’s chief executive, Paul O’Toole, who visited agents, operators and several businesses in Dubai and Bahrain for the first time last month.

“It’s baby steps for now, but if it goes well we will increase our investment [across the region].”

According to O’Toole, “educating the trade is key” in a market where travellers value agent recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals.

“For new destinations, people need the assurance that the basics are there. People need to hear it from someone else,” he said. “I think we already have a reputation for a nice green environment and friendly people, but we can now back that up with creature comforts.”

He emphasised that Ireland and particularly Dublin, now boasted several five-star brand hotels including Four Seasons and Westin, which catered well to the upscale GCC leisure market the country was starting to receive.

“The Ritz-Carlton will open just outside Dublin in 2007 in a place called Powerscourt, so then you will have an old stately home, beautiful gardens and all-suite hotel blended into the landscape there,” he added.

O’Toole conceded that Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry needed to “learn what to do to the product to suit consumer needs”, but explained that Arab national musts, such as Halal food, were already provided.

“Irish meat has been prepared in the Halal fashion in Ireland for many years,” he said. “Properties such as the Westin Hotel are geared up to the GCC market already – the hotel’s welcome letter is translated into Arabic and it offers welcome gifts such as fruit and nuts.”

Tourism Ireland and its travel partners are confident inbound business from the Middle East will grow phenomenally over the next decade.

“Aer Lingus will move from three to four flights weekly (Dubai-Dublin) in May. Their projection was that outbound from Dubai would be 15% of the business and it’s been twice that,” said O’Toole.

“We are doing well with traditional markets, but we think our business is going to move and change. The real powerhouse of international travel will be the Middle East and Far East.”

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