Tourism NI and industry partners have published a new Republic of Ireland Market Strategy to chart a growth plan for Northern Ireland’s closest out of state tourism market, with a revenue target of £193 million, 10 per cent of the value of all trips made by Republic of Ireland residents on the island, by 2026.
The Market Strategy Taskforce, an independent and industry-led group, was chaired by Judith Owens, Chief Executive of Titanic Belfast.
The strategy highlights the increasing importance of the Republic of Ireland market, the positive impact of the new tourism brand Northern Ireland – Embrace a Giant Spirit and the ongoing challenges facing the industry as it emerges from the Covid pandemic.
The three key themes of the strategy are: Collective Effort, with industry better equipped to market and win business; Compelling Communications that will build knowledge of what Northern Ireland has to offer; and Ease of Purchase so that short breaks in Northern Ireland can be more readily accessed and booked.
Republic of Ireland resident overnight trips showed record growth between 2016 and 2019 with a 66 per cent increase in volume and an impressive 103 per cent increase in spend.
The tourism industry was set to benefit further following the phenomenal success of The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019.
An earlier Taskforce established by Tourism NI, which published recommendations in 2016, had identified methods for sustainable growth and brought a deeper understanding of the dynamics and barriers in the RoI market as well as opportunities.
This led to increased levels of marketing and communications activity by Tourism NI and its partners and encouraged Northern Ireland tourism businesses to seek out more opportunities across the border.
Judith Owens said: “Our work in recent years provides us with a strengthened base from which to target the RoI visitor.
“Our industry is a better equipped collective who understand the RoI market and are energised and ready to compete and win in the time ahead.
“As we emerge from travel restrictions and consumers remain tentative about overseas travel, now is a once in a generation opportunity to introduce all that Northern Ireland has to offer to the RoI consumer.
“This strategy charts a plan that will require appropriate decisions, investment and industry collaboration to be implemented.
“While the Northern Ireland – Embrace a Giant Spirit brand is generating strong recognition in the RoI market and helping to drive overall interest, only the tourism industry itself can create the experiences and memories for every visitor and so is central to the strategy.
“To achieve our target of a 10 per cent increase in value share of RoI trips on the island of Ireland by 2026 it will also be crucial that the correct environment, support and enthusiasm is mobilised to enable businesses to succeed, strengthen and prosper.”
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said Northern Ireland’s tourism offer had been building momentum within the Republic of Ireland market over recent years.
This, he said, had been underpinned by public and private sector investment in a superb range of attractions, visitor experiences and accommodation and backed up by a modern and effective destination brand which has significantly increased visibility.
“The newly published Republic of Ireland Market Strategy is an important tool to help build on recent success, plan for the future and drive even greater performance in the years ahead,” he added.
Naomi Waite, Tourism NI Director of Marketing, added:
“We are excited to launch this important strategy at a time when we will be looking even more closely to the RoI market to begin our journey back to growth.
“Having conducted a complete review we have developed a new, comprehensive segmentation of the market which will allow complete packages and connected experiences to be developed.
“We believe there is a latent readiness with visitors in the Republic to visit and spend and that with the correct ambition, vision, resources, co-operation and momentum our industry will thrive again in the years ahead.
“This plan gives us the starting point, the direction and the focus to succeed.”
n To view the Republic of Ireland Market Strategy 2021-2026 in full visit: Republic of Ireland (ROI) Market Review | Tourism NI