NEW YORK -- As luck would have it, the new chairman of the Irish
Tourist Board made his first trip to the Big Apple in time for the
annual celebration honoring Ireland's patron saint.
At a press briefing here, Mark Mortell made a point of thanking
St. Patrick for helping boost Ireland's tourism industry.
Appointed to his post by the minister of tourism late last year,
Mortell came to the board with a tourism background. He had been
chairman of the Overseas Tourism Marketing Initiative, an
independent management group that promotes Irish tourism in the
U.S., Germany, France and Great Britain.
Mortell, 36, is head of marketing at Bank of Ireland's Lifetime
Assurance -- his "day job" -- as well as chairman of the tourist
board. He previously worked for Guinness and the Mars Corp.
According to Mortell, tourism accounts for about 8% of Ireland's
gross national product; employs 10% of the population, and brings
in $3.2 billion in revenue.
Ireland welcomed almost 750,000 U.S. visitors last year, a
number that Mortell wants to double. A total of 4.8 million people
visited the country in 1997, and Mortell said he hopes to see that
number increase to 6 million by 1999.
In order to reach that goal, Mortell said he plans to focus on
three main tourism issues: regionality, seasonality and
First, he would like to "spread tourism around" the country
instead of focusing on any one region. For example, he wants to
attract more visitors to the northwestern part of the country.
Spreading the wealth might mean a combination of educating visitors
on different areas as well as improving and infrastructure, he
His second goal, he said, is one expressed by many European
countries: Get more people to visit during the off season. "No one
comes to Ireland for the weather and we need to highlight the
reasons to come off season," he said. The tourist board will
promote year-round sports and activities, such as equestrian
programs, garden tours, golf and angling, he said.
In addition, the tourist board needs to stay on top of tourism
product standards and make sure they are kept at a high level, he
The Irish Tourist Board still is working closely with the
Northern Ireland Tourist Board to present the country as "one
island and ignore political boundaries," Mortell stressed.
The All-Ireland tourism campaign, launched in late 1996,
stumbled when the Irish Tourist Board decided to forgo a specially
designed joint logo -- of two arms joined in a circle -- in favor
of its traditional logo, the shamrock.
Mortell said the change was made when a new government came into
power in 1997. The Irish Tourist Board eventually compromised by
putting the new logo underneath its shamrock, however, it is very
small, he noted.
The Irish government had said the new marketing logo did not
represent Ireland as well as the shamrock -- a belief that was
disproved by research, said Mortell.