Ireland beckons guests to The Gathering

Families gather at the Kilkenny Castle for a taste of Ireland as part of The Gathering celebrations

TOURISM is a key contributing factor to Ireland’s economy today. Each year, overseas tourism contributes to the order of €3 billion ($3.8 billion) in foreign revenue earnings to the economy. The tourism board established a regional Asia hub office in the UAE in 2010 to focus on the needs of the Middle East and Asian markets, in particular focusing on China, India, the GCC, and South Africa.

“The Middle East is a very important market for tourism to the island of Ireland, the latest figures released for the period January – September 2012 show YTD growth of two per cent from ‘Other Areas’. The GCC region falls under this classification, said Aisling McDermott, marketing manager for Tourism Ireland in Middle East and Asia.

A key factor influencing the growth of visitor numbers from the Middle East to the island of Ireland in recent year is the significant advances that have been made on the access front. Today there are 17 direct flights every week direct from the UAE to Dublin.

“Ireland’s visa waiver scheme has also had a significant impact on visitor numbers to the Island of Ireland. The Short-Stay Visa Waiver Scheme was introduced in July 2011 to encourage tourism to the island of Ireland,” added McDermott.

The scheme allows GCC visitors who have valid UK visit visas to also visit Ireland, without the need for an Irish Visa. The UK visa requires a once off validation in the UK before it can be used directly to Ireland.  Other countries included in the scheme are; India, Kazakhstan, the Peoples’ Republic of China, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Looking ahead in 2013, McDermott said the focus it to continue the growth trajectory in the GCC both in terms of visitor numbers from other areas.

“In order to achieve growth, we will continue to focus our activities in the areas of trade, publicity and online. We will carry out co-operative campaigns with travel trade and airline partners, as well as continuing to work closely with Visit Britain in all the GCC markets to promote Ireland and the UK,” she added.

Two key focuses for the island of Ireland in 2013 is The Gathering Ireland 2013 and Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013. Throughout 2013, Ireland will open its arms to hundreds of thousands of friends and family from all over the world, calling them home to gatherings in villages, towns and cities. Communities throughout Ireland will showcase and share the very best of Irish culture, tradition, business, sport, fighting spirit and the uniquely Irish sense of fun. It will kick off in spectacular style at the New Year’s Eve Festival in Dublin and will be celebrated through gatherings of the people and Ireland’s major festivals throughout 2013.