Ireland: An Interview with Joseph Byrne of the Irish Tourist Board

Joseph Byrne discusses the continuing growth in Irish tourism with contributing editor Harvey Chipkin.

TW: Is Ireland continuing the rapid growth in tourism it has enjoyed in recent years?

Byrne: Since 1993, U.S. tourism to Ireland has doubled. We have been the fastest-growing European destination for U.S. visitors each year since then. Our market share has grown from less than 5% to 8%.

TW: Are you doing anything new to educate the trade?

Byrne: For one thing, we have expanded our educational program dramatically. Five years ago, our major promotional series visited 10 cities; this February we will have workshops in 50 cities and with an increasing number of partners. Our goal is to reach 6,000 agents in those 50 cities. At those seminars we are introducing a major initiative--the establishment of an Irish expert program.

TW: How has access to the country improved?

Byrne: Aer Lingus, in particular, has [increased] the number of gateways and capacity in just two and a half years--from 650,000 seats to 950,000 seats. And they are committed to opening up other cities. Next June, Continental will begin to fly year-round to Ireland with twice-daily flights from Newark--one to Dublin, one to Shannon.

TW: What are your goals?

Byrne: While tourism to Ireland has grown significantly to all parts of the country, it has grown at a proportionately greater rate in the Dublin area. One of our thrusts will be to spread tourism to other parts of the country with niche attractions like golf, walking, cycling, equestrian holidays, incentives and meetings. We will have increased promotional activity to make our travel trade partners more aware of all this.

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