Ireland sets even loftier goals after record 2014

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Ireland landscape
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Ireland has set a goal of increasing U.S. visitors by 6% in 2015, following a year in which U.S. visitation rose 15%, and 10% percent of all U.S. travelers in Europe traveled to the country.

Alison Metcalfe, executive vice president of the U.S. and Canada for Tourism Ireland, said that the 1.2 million Americans who visited Ireland 2014 made it a record year, and that followed on the heels of 2013, which was also a record year.

Metcalfe, who spoke at a Visit Ireland event in New York on Tuesday, said that Ireland will continue its Jump Into Ireland marketing campaign, but continues to tweak it.

“Our overarching strategy is conversion,” Metcalfe said. “Almost everybody in America wants to go to Ireland. Our biggest job is to get it off the bucket list and get them to travel before they actually kick the bucket.”

This is not to say Ireland is targeting only older travelers. Besides the baby boomers and mature travelers who are interested in history, heritage and scenery, Ireland is targeting travelers between the ages of 25 and 35, who Metcalfe called “digital energizers.”

This group is more likely to travel with friends, according to Metcalfe, and is more likely to respond to shoulder-season promotions. Ireland has been successful in this endeavor, seeing an 18% increase in U.S. travel to Ireland in the fourth and first quarters, she said, crediting part of that to marketing partnerships with airlines and tour operators.

To attract the culturally curious, Ireland is focusing on unique and natural attractions such as the Causeway Coastal Route and the Wild Atlantic Way as well as two cultural events in 2014: the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats and Irish Design 2015.

Ireland has benefited from the HBO blockbuster “Game of Thrones,” much of which is filmed in Northern Ireland, Metcalfe said. Ireland will continue to work on a  social media campaign in partnership with HBO.

And it continues to court the urban-oriented “digital energizers” with the attractions of its cities. Belfast, for example, has established itself as a music capital, Metcalfe said. Among its offerings: the Van Morrison Trail in Belfast, which visits some of the places the singer knew as a child growing up in east Belfast.

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