All Ireland: Q&A with Irish Tourist Board official

Joseph Byrne, executive vice president, North America, of the Irish Tourist Board, talks about Ireland's tourism successes and challenges with contributing editor Marilee Crocker.

TW: Tourism to Ireland has grown tremendously in the last five years. To what do you attribute that?

Byrne: There has been a considerable increase in the promotional effort for Ireland. Specifically, advertising has more than tripled compared to five years ago. Another significant factor has been the very considerable improvements in air access. A third reason is that the product development program in Ireland is running at a very significant rate. We're bringing on new accommodations, upgrading existing accommodations, adding new attractions. Another contributor has been the peace process in Northern Ireland and increased cooperation between the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and ourselves.

TW: How will you sustain the growth?

Byrne: We will have to step up promotional efforts in the new markets now open to us [due to new air service]. Our investment program will need to continue if it's to meet the demand of the market to be more active and participative. We also have two corporate challenges -- improving further our performance in shoulder and off seasons, and encouraging visits to lesser-known parts of Ireland.

TW: What are some of those areas?

Byrne: For example, the rugged grandeur of Donegal in the northwest of Ireland, the Lakelands area, including the counties of Cavan and Monaghan, and the Shannon-Erne Waterway, which is a naturalist's paradise and an excellent area for water-based holidays.

TW: From the Republic's perspective, what are the advantages of marketing jointly with Northern Ireland?

Byrne: We have been driven by the needs and the perceptions of our visitors, and they do not see a border between any parts of the island of Ireland. They want to experience the island in its entirety.

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