Following a recent sales mission to China, organised by Tourism Ireland, the Causeway Coast will be seeing many more Chinese visitors to the area. Ann Donaghy, Interstate Hotels UK & Ireland (Ramada Portrush), and Alexandra Mehaffy, National Trust Giant’s Causeway, took part in the sales mission, together with 13 other tourism enterprises from the island of Ireland, to the key cities of Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing.
The overall objective was to engage with Chinese tour operators who are currently selling Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland and to encourage them to extend their Northern Ireland offering, or to include Northern Ireland for the first time, in their 2016 brochures and programmes.
Ann Donaghy, Interstate Hotels UK & Ireland (Ramada Portrush), said: “We were delighted with new contacts made and, in particular, an increase in business from Kuoni Travel, one of China’s top three tour operators. Strong links have been made with several tour operators as a result of the trip and we hope to see year-round business developing through the winter.
Over the last six months, we have had business from China worth over £18,000 at the hotel, and next year we would hope to see this figure double. The Chinese are just blown away by the scenery of the North Coast, the views of the Atlantic Ocean and, of course, they just love to shop.” Alexandra Mehaffy, National Trust – Giant’s Causeway, commented: “This was our third year joining Tourism Ireland’s sales mission to China and we have experienced a significant increase (+35%) in the number of Chinese visitors to the Giant’s Causeway and also to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. At the Giant’s Causeway, our Chinese visitors are able to hear the stories of the Causeway landscape brought to life through a Mandarin audio guide and a welcome map is also available in Mandarin. They are very impressed by our World Heritage site and by the natural beauty of the North Coast. We recently marked the third birthday of our amazing visitor centre at the Causeway, and in that time we have welcomed almost 2.4 million visitors from all over the world. We look forward to welcoming even more from the hugely important Chinese market.”
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “China is an important emerging travel market and one that Tourism Ireland is committed to growing over the coming years. Our annual sales mission is a key element in our promotional programme in China, to win a greater share of the 3+ million Chinese visitors who travel to Europe each year. This mission offered our tourism partners a platform to inform and influence the Chinese travel trade on all that Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland has to offer and, importantly, encourage them to include Northern Ireland in their 2016 brochures and programmes.
Our aim is to grow the number of Chinese visitors to the island of Ireland to 50,000 per year, by 2017, and our sales missions play a significant role in helping us achieve this target.” Tourism Ireland has offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. The organisation’s promotional activity includes generating positive publicity for Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland through the media, as well as online marketing. Tourism Ireland also undertakes co-operative promotions with key partners – including airlines and the travel trade. A key message for Tourism Ireland in China this year is the British-Irish Visa Scheme, which was launched last autumn and enables Chinese travellers to visit both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a single visa of either country. –