How the Tourism Industry in Ireland can remain competitive
We had the pleasure of visiting the stunning Powerscourt Hotel and Gardens for the annual AIPCO Conference 2015. Current AIPCO Chairperson Susan Nolan gave a warm welcome address as we were seated in the beautifully decorated Powerscourt ballroom. Padraig Gilligan (SoolNua) did a fantastic job of hosting the event, and encouraged the audience to interact via various tech channels, such as the live Tweet feed projected on the stage, as well as the audience polling system online. The day culminated in an unforgettable gala dinner where local produce and top class entertainment (SEA) combined to round off a perfect day.
Key speakers at the event included Tim Fenn (IHF), Helen O’Leary (SITE Ireland), Susan Nolan (AIPCO), Paul Gallagher (ITIC), Siobhan McManamy (Tourism Ireland), Miriam Kennedy (Fáilte Ireland), and Sue Uda (ITOA). International guests André Vietor (IAPCO) and Annamaria Ruffini (SITE International) also shared their honest perspectives on the MICE and tourism industry in Ireland through fresh eyes.
MICE & Tourism Industry in Ireland Update
Incentive travel trends are increasing as the economy stabilises throughout Europe and Ireland. Corporations are recognising the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships with prospective and current clients by offering value through experience. Click here for some of our recommendations for event destinations in 2015.
The MICE and tourism industry in Ireland has grown by 50% in the past 30 years, and is expected to continue to grow steadily throughout 2016. In fact the MICE industry has now become a sellers’ market, and thanks to Tourism Ireland, a Meitheal style industry event will be coming to Ireland next September. This is fantastic news for the Irish MICE industry.
However, there is an increasing need for further capital investment in the tourism industry in Ireland, which is essential to ensure our message reaches the global market place in a consistent and relevant way. The Fáilte Ireland budget will be dropping by 17%, and the Tourism Ireland budget will also be dropping by 19% in 2016. The tourism industry in Ireland has a lot to offer the International MICE market, and it is vital that investment is prioritised in order to reach the level we know that Ireland can achieve.
Ireland’s Unique Selling Points
To summarise the in depth information shared at the AIPCO conference, here are a few key topics that were discussed regarding the success and opportunities for the MICE and tourism industry in Ireland, and recommendations on how Ireland can remain competitive in a global market place.
An Authentic Experience
There is nowhere else in the world like Ireland. The cultural, personable experience had with Irish people is hard to replicate anywhere else, and there are very few countries that can offer a rural, seaside, and capital city experience in one weekend.
Green is the Colour
‘Green is the colour’ that comes to mind when people think of Ireland. For such a small island, Ireland is known worldwide for St. Patrick’s day celebrations, when iconic monuments all over the world are lit up in green lights, and people come together dressed proudly in their green uniforms to celebrate the positivity and humour that comes with the Irish culture.
Warm Friendly People & Good Quality Services
Ask anyone what they love most about Ireland, and you can be pretty sure it’s the warm and friendly Irish people. It is engrained in Irish culture to be friendly, funny, and welcoming. Ireland may have limited capacity when it comes to multiple large scale events, but the service offered is of high quality, and served with a smile. The tourism industry in Ireland is known for top quality hospitality and dining experiences. At the end of the day, a friendly smile can make all the difference.
Good Value for Money
According to Tim Fenn (IHF) 92% of visitors to Ireland rate the country as ‘Good Value for Money’. Only 8% have found Ireland to be overpriced, compared to 40% in 2009. Ireland is in fact a cheaper destination than France, UK or Italy, however we are not competing with these destinations for MICE business, so a collaborative effort is essential to maintain our costs and ensure continued value to our customers.
As Ireland is a small Island one might expect transport to be an issue, but this cannot be further from the truth! Dublin is in fact the third most accessible city in Europe. Air access has improved drastically in the past few years, with 8,708 flight seat capacity in 2015, compared to only 1,400 seats in 2008! There is now 68% more seat capacity from North America than there were in 2012. This trend is set to continue as Ireland welcomes 7 new airlines to the Irish market in 2015, bringing even more small frequent flights all year round.
Final Recommendations from the AIPCO Conference 2015
And to finish off the conference on an energy kick, Kevin Kelly (motivational speaker and author of Do!) shook the room with interactive debates, a little physical exercise, and some insightful life hack message for us to take home.
Here are the key findings from our fantastic day at the AIPCO Conference 2015.
Invest in Infrastructure
The tourism industry in Ireland can learn a lot from Barcelona about promoting experiences outside the capital. Currently rural towns are being neglected, when the reality is they have the most authentic Irish charm, and they are only a short drive from the larger cities. Annamaria Ruffini (SITE International) recommends more focus on transport infrastructures to encourage direct routes between cities to encourage this.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the number of hotel rooms in the Dublin city area. André Vietor (IAPCO) rightly pointed out the drastic need for investment to be put into the hotel sector, as the tourism industry continues to expand, and as the tourism budgets are due to be reduced in 2016.
Expand the Offering
As mentioned before, the rural towns in Ireland are being forgotten when it comes to the MICE industry. One of the joys of travelling for business is having the opportunity to experience world cultures and enjoy cultural experiences. Annamaria encourages the MICE and tourism industry in Ireland to team up together and offer unique multidimensional experiences such as outdoor activities, trips to the coast, and traditional Irish culture evenings.
Another offering we have neglected to promote, is the delicious standard of local Irish produced food. Ireland have the highest standard in meat and dairy production, and all cities are in range of rural areas making fresh organic produce easily accessible. This factor is a vital selling point for people travelling to Ireland for business, and the message should be clearly stated.
Change the Stereotypes
Ireland is positively associated with warm people, a talent for organising the best parties, and green pastures. But unfortunately there are still some negative stereotypes we need to nip in the bud. For example Ireland is mistakenly thought to be an expensive destination due to outdated hearsay, and there is also the ongoing expectation of heavy drinking and mayhem amongst the Irish people. It is time for us to shake these out-dated stereotypes, and instead re-focus the message of good value, friendly people, and great parties (with or without a Guinness!). Interested in organising a conference for your industry? Here is a step-by-step guide organising a conference event, to help you with the process.
Green is the Colour for Eco-Friendly
Green is the colour of Ireland, as we all know. But Annamaria made a startlingly obvious connection between green and being ecologically friendly. As a small country, there is nothing stopping us from following in the footsteps of Denmark, and re-branding our colour green to have more than one positive association.
Social media trends are showing an overwhelming trend towards video formats, yet not enough organisations are making use of this useful tool. Fáilte Ireland have a wonderful video campaign promoting Ireland, showing all that the tourism industry in Ireland has to offer in a few short minutes, while also evoking positive emotions through music and visual effects. Also here you can watch Roger Kenny’s AIPCO 2015 video.
A Consistent Message
For the tourism industry in Ireland to succeed as a strong contestant in the MICE industry, it is vital that all organisations in the hospitality, events, tourist and MICE industries put themselves on the international platform, and represent Ireland at international expos, conferences, trade shows and events. It is time to team up in order to offer the best choices of services and experiences together. The message must be strong, consistent, and true to the promise.
Finally, we would like to thank Powerscourt for representing Irish hospitality and food at it’s finest, the AIPCO conference organising committee for hosting another memorable and insightful conference, all the sponsors who made the event possible, and to Roger Kenny for capturing all the best moments on camera. We look forward to next year!
All the imagery from the event was taken by the talented Roger Kenny (RogerKenny.ie), and you can view the AIPCO 2015 photo gallery here.