Ireland: Tourism to Northern Ireland

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 visitor numbers.

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 destinations].

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.

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