Clifford Coonan, Irish Times
Image from article, with caption: Hong Kong: a delegation of 15 Irish companies led by Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons visited Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong
Winning a relatively small part of market will boost job creation and regional development
Ireland only needs a small share of the booming Chinese overseas tourist market to make a major impact and a recent trade mission marked a big step forward, said Ireland’s Ambassador to China, Paul Kavanagh.
China is the world’s largest outbound travel market, with some 120 million people travelling overseas in 2015. Last year, the number of Chinese visitors to Ireland was up 18 per cent to 45,000, and a target of 50,000 in 2017 looks set to be exceeded in 2016.
“Success in the China market often takes time and patience to build up. But after one passes a certain threshold, the benefits multiply,” said Mr Kavanagh.
He was speaking to The Irish Times after a delegation of 15 Irish companies led by Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons visited Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as Hong Kong for the first time. Mr Gibbons also visited trade figures in Nanjing.
“Ireland needs only to win a relatively small – and good quality – portion of this market for it to make a real difference at home in terms of job creation and regional development,” he said.
Tourism Ireland has stepped up its efforts to woo Chinese tourists, culminating in the appointment of James Kenny as country manager for China. He is a fluent Mandarin speaker, based in Shanghai, who has been involved in bringing Chinese students and tourists to Ireland.
The Irish Embassy in Beijing as well as Consuls General Therese Healy in Shanghai and Peter Ryan in Hong Kong, were working closely with Tourism Ireland to boost Ireland’s interests, Mr Kavanagh said. The Embassy in Beijing is in the process of appointing a press and public diplomacy attaché.
An open question remains securing direct flight into Ireland. Currently travellers to Ireland have to stop over in the Emirates or in Europe.