Tourism Ireland CEO looking to cushion Brexit blow with Middle East visitors

Middle East

Tourism Ireland is looking to woo visitors from the Middle East in order to cushion any negative impact from the Bexit fall-out.

CEO Niall Gibbons told Arabian Business that Ireland’s Asian market, which includes the Middle East, currently accounts for just five percent of total tourism business.

He said plans were afoot to increase the number of visitors to the Emerald Isle from the Middl East region, particularly in light of the Brexit uncertainty.

“We’ve carried out four waves of research in Britain just to assess the mindset of the British consumer. We are a bit concerned and that’s why we’ve moved into the market diversification.,” he said.

“It’s important that we keep a cool and calm head in relation to what’s going on.

“We feel that there’s an awful lot more potential that’s here. Markets like this – we have to work harder and we have to encourage our industry to come out to convince people to come back. I think the next five years are going to be very exciting.”

Sharp increase

Gibbons revealed tourist numbers from the Middle East to Ireland increased by 52 percent over the last five years, with 71,000 people from the region visiting the Ireland in 2018. He described the issuing of visas on arrival for UAE nationals last year as a “significant step forward”.

He said: “Two thirds come from the UAE. That’s the biggest one with the biggest potential. About 33 percent come from Saudi. That’s a place that we haven’t had the capacity to move in and do anything yet. It’s a place that’s of interest.”

One of the biggest attractions for Middle East visitors has come through the hugely popular series Game of Thrones, with eight seasons filmed in Ireland.

Gibbons said that Arabic pages on the oganisation’s website and Instagram pages has also helped, while he hoped further training in the industry and a relaxing further of the visa requirements may also provide a boost to the country’s tourism.

Gibbons also hoped the three Gulf carriers, Emirates airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, which currently provides over 10,000 seats every week going to Ireland, may expand their offering in the near future.

He said: “We expect that, in the next two or three years, we’ll have expansion with at least one and perhaps two of these carriers. The future looks very positive.”

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