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
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
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