WITH significant growth in tourists visiting Ireland so far this year, there can be “no let-up” in promotion activity abroad - particularly on direct flights to the west of Ireland, according to Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey.
He was reacting to Tourism Ireland figures showing Ireland had almost 325,000 extra overseas visitors from January to June compared to same period last year.
“The 10% increase across the board nationally is very welcome and we have definitely witnessed that here on the ground across the west of Ireland. Our passenger numbers at Shannon for the first six months of the year have even outpaced the national average as we are up by 15%,” said Mr Pakey.
“We note the Tourism Ireland statement highlighting the Wild Atlantic Way programme and Limerick City of Culture as key promotions this year. While the City of Culture programme ends in December, there is huge opportunity for further growth with the Wild Atlantic Way, which Shannon is the key gateway airport for given that we provide US, UK and European services.”
At a press conference last month, Mr Pakey said Shannon’s marketing team was “out there selling the west of Ireland”.
“And that is almost a new message for people because they have been hammered with the message that Dublin is the gateway to Ireland. And we have had to go out there and educate them a little bit.”
Tourism Ireland should now join with Shannon in promoting the Wild Atlantic Way and direct access into Shannon, he said this week.
“There can be no let-up in the promotion of the route as it will be a jewel in the tourism crown for Ireland in the years and decades ahead. It is also essential that the respective agencies promote access directly into the west of Ireland for this route as it is far more beneficial for the customer experience if visitors don’t have to incur long transfer times to the route,” Mr Pakey said.
In announcing its half-year figures, Tourism Ireland boss Niall Gibbons said the marketing agency was determined to continue to positive trend.
“We are undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world throughout 2014 which includes a focus on the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on major events like Limerick City of Culture and the Croke Park Classic (American football match),” Mr Gibbons said.
According to Tourism Ireland, there has been growth in every target market in the first six months of 2014, with British visitors up 14%, Americans up 11% and mainland Europe up 6%.