For the first time ever, a group of travel agents from Hong Kong visited Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland this week. They were here as guests of Tourism Ireland, Tourism NI and Fáilte Ireland – visiting Belfast, Londonderry and Dublin – experiencing at first-hand what Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland has to offer Chinese holidaymakers.
Travel agents continue to play an important role in China, with Chinese travellers preferring to use a travel agent for a number of reasons, including convenience, language barriers, visa preparation and knowledge gaps. So, the aim of this week’s fact-finding visit is to educate and enthuse the group about the island of Ireland – ensuring they are better equipped to sell the destination to their clients when they return home. Their packed itinerary in Northern Ireland included visits to Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, and a walking tour of the historic city walls of Derry.
China is an important emerging travel market and one that Tourism Ireland is committed to growing over the coming years. The visit of these travel agents follows Tourism Ireland’s recent sales mission to China – which took in Hong Kong again this year.
James Kenny, Tourism Ireland’s Manager China, said: “Tourism Ireland is delighted to have the opportunity to showcase the island of Ireland to these top travel agents from Hong Kong. Fact-finding visits like this are really important, as the travel agents get to experience at first-hand the wealth of things to see and do here for Chinese holidaymakers. Our aim is to enthuse them about the destination and ensure that when they return home, they are better equipped to advise their clients about Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland, when planning and booking their holidays.”
According to the latest data from the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), China is now the world’s largest outbound travel market – with 135 million people travelling overseas each year, spending about $261 billion.
Tourism Ireland has a strong network in China, with offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. The organisation’s activity in China involves establishing and building relationships with influential intermediaries, including the travel trade, airlines and media – highlighting our natural attractions, cities, castles and our proximity to Great Britain. The Chinese version of Tourism Ireland’s international website is http://www.ireland.com/zh-cn; and social media is also increasingly important in helping to raise awareness of Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland in this mobile-dominant country.