Why Irish tourism should be looking to continental Europe

Professor Jim Deegan of UL says our national tourism targets are lacking in ambition...

Tourism Ireland, marketing, tourists, Star Wars, social media, Niall Gibbons

The Black Valley in Co Kerry | Image: RollingNews.ie

One of Ireland's leading tourism commentators has argued that the industry needs to be less UK-centric and more ambitious when it comes to our revenue targets and marketing scope.

While complimentary of the performance of tourism agencies over the past few years, Professor Jim Deegan told Breakfast Business that we are likely to shrug off the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and US President-elect Donald Trump to come close to reaching our 2025 target of €5bn in overseas revenues... by the end of the year.

Deegan, who is the Director of the National Centre for Tourism Policy at the University of Limerick and a Fáilte Ireland board member, is calling for us to be more aggressive in our targets and to move away from UK tunnel vision when we market the island abroad.

He said that "mainland European markets over a long period of time have been performing far better to other markets relative to the amount of money we invest in them."

While he noted that we should "certainly not turn our back on Britain", he does believe that "we need to think about upping our game in those mainland European markets."

Continental Europe's market share here has grown to 36%, close to the revenue share from UK tourists, which has declined proportionately over the years.

As to the reasons why the potential on the Continent has not been properly taped, Deegan said:

"One in particular might be our long-standing issue with our languages ability in this country.

"And secondly, we've built up an infrastructure in English language-speaking countries. And sometimes for agencies it can be a little bit difficult to unravel that."

Deegan also suggested that Tourism Ireland has a remit to "disproportionately market Northern Ireland" and that this is having a detrimental impact on broadening the scope.

"I think politically, Great Britain is a very serious target market for Northern Ireland. So I think that, to be fair to the Tourism Ireland people, they have a remit and they're following it."

"Pause for thought" is required to see how Ireland may be able to either reallocate or increase funding to focus on mainland European markets.

The comments come as Deegan hosts an annual tourism policy workshop – with the theme of 'Sustaining the Growth Phase of Irish Tourism at a Time of Economic Uncertainty' – in Dromoland Castle over the next three days.