By Eileen Murphy
In a move designed to harness the synergy created by the ongoing peace process, the tourist boards of Ireland and Northern Ireland have merged to form one marketing entity. The newly created agency, Tourism Ireland, will offer a one-stop information resource to Americans planning a vacation in Ireland.
The new agency had its official launch at a reception at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City last Wednesday. Chief Executive Paul O’Toole, formerly the general manager of Corporate Development with the Irish Tourist Board, explained the concept behind the strategy.
“This new initiative has been shaped as a crucial outgrowth of the peace process,” O’Toole told the assembled group of travel agents, tour operators and journalists.
“We believe that it is a desirable thing to have an integrated marketing approach to the promotion of the entire island of Ireland as a quality vacation travel destination.”
Outlining the strategic benefits of combining the resources of the traditionally separate agencies, O’Toole cited the “consistent and clear marketing message” that will be presented to Americans who are in the process of making plans for the upcoming summer holidays. The most visible part of the campaign will be a series of print ads and TV commercials featuring “West Wing” star Martin Sheen.
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O’Toole stressed the importance of American tourism to the Irish economy, which suffered last year when visitor numbers fell due to the foot-and-mouth disease crisis and in the aftermath of Sept. 11. He remains confident, however, that the industry will rebound in 2002.
“Although the past year has presented unique challenges to the tourism industry, the product being offered in Ireland is better than ever,” O’Toole said.
Jim McGuigan, Tourism Ireland’s executive vice president for North America, noted that a key element in the marketing plan will be to offer improved services to the travel industry. He credited retail travel agents with playing a major role in the “great success that Ireland has achieved in the tourism business to date.”
McGuigan said that one of Tourism Ireland’s main focuses will be to provide workshops, seminars, training programs and other initiatives to travel agents, in order to keep them apprised of “the excellent travel product that Ireland has to offer throughout the entire island.”