New Tourism Ireland plan targets ‘higher-end’ overseas visitors

‘Ireland is not seen as a low-cost destination’ says agency boss Alice Mansergh, but some regions and seasons have capacity to grow

Tourism Ireland, the cross-Border body that markets both the Republic and the North to overseas visitors, is targeting “value adding” tourists at the “higher end” of the market as part of its strategy for 2024, senior figures within the agency have said.

Speaking at the launch of the agency’s 2024 marketing plan, chief executive Alice Mansergh said the body’s own research suggests foreign visitors do not see the island as a “low-cost destination”.

“We’re seen as middle of the road,” she said. “We don’t market ourselves as cheap overseas. We’re trying to target those consumers who have the funds to travel and who prize experiences over low cost, who want to come and enjoy the scenery, the heritage, the people.”

The agency said on Tuesday that it hopes to grow overseas tourism industry revenues by 5.6 per cent on average annually out to 2030. Specifically, it wants to boost the regional, offpeak market – the areas of the country and the seasons that have “the most capacity to grow”, Ms Mansergh said – by 6.5 per cent annually over the same period.


Tourism Ireland said it has a particular focus on visitors with “value-adding traits”, those who “have the funds to travel”. Ms Mansergh said: “We’re focused on people ... who are going to prize experiences and travel across regions and seasons, who are going to stay for longer and spend more.”

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Asked whether this focus may exclude certain customer segments to the detriment of the industry, Siobhán McManamy, director of markets at Tourism Ireland, said the agency does “target at the higher end” but “there is something for everyone within that”.

“We’re very conscious, I think, of having that really balanced portfolio of markets because we’ve a really diverse industry, which is one of our greatest assets, to be fair, overseas.”

At a time when many of the Republic’s three-star and lower rated hotels are being used for emergency accommodation for refugees, wealthier tourists – those less likely to be put off by elevated room rates – are seen within the industry as a vital market segment to court.

Ms Mansergh said reduced capacity within the hospitality sector due to the use of some rooms for “humanitarian reasons” as well as new regulations around short-term lettings are “new realities” with which the sector has to grapple.

Tourism Ireland’s main goal, she said, is to increase the number of “bed nights” on the island of Ireland. With that in mind, Ms Mansergh said there are “capacity opportunities” as well as challenges.

“If you look at the hotels, they’re at about 88 per cent room occupancy in the summer months and 73 per cent room occupancy from October through to May. Just that 15 percentage point difference is worth hundreds of millions [of euro] to businesses across the island and to our economy. So we’ll be really focused on marketing iconic reasons to come across the regions and the seasons that have the most capacity to grow.”

The agency said it has placed a particular focus on “landmark moments” that fall outside the peak times of the calendar this year, including St Patrick’s Day and Halloween.

With one eye on the Ryder Cup in Adare in 2027 and the Open at Portrush in 2025, Tourism Ireland is also expanding its golf promotions in conjunction with European golf, said Ms McManamy.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times