David Boyce discusses the state of tourism to Northern Ireland with
contributing editor Marilee Crocker.
TW: How did U.S. tourism to Northern Ireland fare in 1997?
Boyce: For the first nine months the U.S. was up approximately
18% over 1996, [which] wasn't as strong as '95, because '95 was the
year we had the first peace talks. We had over 118,000 U.S.
visitors in that year. It looks as if in '97 we will be back to '95
TW: You recently announced a joint marketing drive with the
Irish Tourist Board. What have been the results?
Boyce: So far I believe over a quarter million inquiries [have
been generated by the campaign]. That does not count any
advertising we've done on our own. The statisticians believe that
the reason tourism to Ireland as a whole has increased by over 70%
since 1994 is the joint advertising campaign. [The campaign] sends
a message to potential tourists that there are no borders in
Ireland, that both parts of the country welcome people from all
over the world, particularly Americans, because there's a great
bond there historically. Also, that Northern Ireland should not be
a stand-alone destination. Being surrounded by other great
destinations -- Great Britain and Ireland among them -- it would
make sense [to combine Northern Ireland with those
TW: How sensitive is the North American market to the political
ups and downs in Northern Ireland?
Boyce: When I came here six years ago the U.S. marketplace was
more sensitive to those situations than it is today. I would say
there are a number of reasons. The visit to Northern Ireland in
1995 by President and Mrs. Clinton gave us widespread [press]
coverage. More and more people believe that it is not a war-torn
country. The positive images that have been coming out of Northern
Ireland, whether it be the peace process or visits, are all signs
that reassure people.