Banking On The Green: St. Patty’s Day Celebrations Spur The Wanderlust For Ireland

by Maria Lisella
Banking On The Green: St. Patty’s Day Celebrations Spur The Wanderlust For Ireland

Chicago River, St Patrick'S Day, Downtown.


It’s no surprise Niall Gibbons, chief executive for Tourism Ireland, is thrilled that New York City’s One World Trade Center and Empire State Building are going green today.

St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional start of the season for Tourism Ireland—and the touches of green it brings to the United States have been turning to a pot of gold for the Irish. Last year marked the fourth record-breaking year in a row for inbound tourism by U.S. travelers. 

Indeed, icons across the country are joining the Irish parade today: La Concha Visitors Center at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas and the fireworks show at the Plaza Hotel & Casino, also in Las Vegas, will participate in Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative. So will the “Welcome” sign in Las Vegas and the world-famous Niagara Falls.

Chicago joins New York and Las Vegas with numerous buildings and sites across the city “seeing green,” including Navy Pier, the John Hancock Center, the Civic Opera House, the Wrigley Building, Novak Construction, Sheraton Grand Hotel, State Street, Chicago Gaelic Park and One Prudential Plaza, as well as the Irish American Heritage Center, which joins the initiative for the first time.

Tourism Ireland is zooming in on North America as a market that offers a strong return on investment, in terms of visitors and expenditure. The “culturally curious” and “social energizer” audiences are being targeted with distinctive vacation experiences, like the Wild Atlantic Way, the Causeway Coastal Route and Ireland’s Ancient East. Promotions are honed to grow travel to the regions of Ireland, during the shoulder and off-peak seasons.

Expect to see a lot more of Ireland this year: on national TV as well as through its giant digital footprint, as Tourism Ireland gets busy spending its $35 million budget ($9 million dedicated to the U.S. alone). Tourism Ireland’s Facebook account shows 3.7 million fans with a reach of 740 million; its YouTube channel has had more than 28 million views and its Twitter account has no less than 370,000 followers plus who knows how many impressions. 

Its international website includes almost 30 market sites in 11 languages around the world that attracted nearly 20 million visitors in 2016.  

No doubt Hollywood has played a small role in boosting Ireland’s image: HBO’s Game of Thrones production and the upcoming George Lucas’ extravaganza Star Wars 8 have already shined the celebrity spotlight over Ireland as will Liam Nisson’s voice for the upcoming bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2023, which Gibbons confides would be a “game changer. “ The HBO link has given the country license to brand itself as the Northern Ireland Game of Thrones Territory.

Tourism Ireland takes this industry seriously and has planted seeds in 23 markets around the world. This year, Tourism Ireland is targeting 10.6 million visitors this year who are expected to spend about $5.7 billion. Almost a quarter million jobs in Ireland are tourism-related andd the industry represents 4% of the GNP.

With the recent announcement by Norwegian of new flights to Ireland from New York (Stewart International Airport) and Providence (Rhode Island), the total number of transatlantic airline seats to Ireland this summer will be 60,000, from 20 North American gateways to the island of Ireland – that’s 10,000 additional seats (+20%) compared to summer 2016. ?

Promoted as one destination since 1998 – the Island of Ireland, combines the Republic and Northern Ireland under one banner – it has lured one in every 10 U.S. visitors to Europe to step onto the Emerald Isle for an average stay of nine days. 

Developing markets like Australia and New Zealand, China, India are certainly of interest says Gibbons however, Europe, Great Britain, and North America are among the top sources of visitors.

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