O’Donoghue, on his first U.S. visit as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, said that Ireland has been growing in popularity as a business destination in recent years. This was due in large part, he said, to the fact that Ireland is highly conscious of offering quality to the American business traveler.
“The industry in Ireland has invested heavily in the destination product, which is now among the best available anywhere in the world,” O’Donoghue said at a lunch Monday held at the Mutual of America building on Park Avenue.
Such investment, said O’Donoghue, was a crucial element in Ireland’s ability to gain a share of what was now an $8 billion market.
O’Donoghue focused particular attention on Ireland as a destination for so-called incentive travel.
“Incentive travel has long been considered a strong motivational and marketing tool. This is a market segment that is ideal for Ireland’s hospitality and leisure industry,” he said.
He added that the business generated by the incentive traveler was also especially lucrative.
“The average spend-per-person for incentive groups is more than five times that of the regular tourist visitor,” O’Donoghue said.
The minister said he believes the present downturn in the travel industry is temporary and that strong growth would soon return.
“I know that we will weather the tempest and emerge from this recession,” he said.
Paul O’Toole, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, accompanied O’Donoghue on his U.S. visit. O’Toole said that the current period was a crucial one for the Irish tourism industry.
“We are all keenly aware that our business will flourish only when we see strength in our American visitor numbers,” he said. “Our commitment to the American market is firm and unshakeable.”
Jim McGuigan, Tourism Ireland’s executive vice president for North America, said that if Ireland’s visitor traffic from the U.S. is to regain its strong growth, it is important to focus on all segments, including the conference, incentive travel and business meetings market.