Tourism Ireland once again put on a good show at the latest World Travel Market, held in London at the start of November. Gordon Hunt was there to check out the event.
The World Travel Market (WTM) was, yet again, a massive event in London this year. Nestled in between the Great Britain and Northern Ireland stand to one side, and the impressively constructed Dutch stand to the other, Ireland — yet again — enjoyed notable interest from tourism operators from all over the world. “It was terrific,” enthused Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, speaking to Hospitality Ireland after the event. “You could see the interest there, and the energy from these people to help Ireland turn it all around.” Minister Ring was speaking after taking part in the UK launch of the Gathering 2013, to great response. “We are very excited about next year, and with the news of the new airline routes in Ireland with America, you can see that Tourism Ireland are working very hard to get tourists back into Ireland.” The tourism figures are turning around, the UK is still a tough nut to crack. But we are getting there. “Sure look at what we have done at home, too,” explains Ring. “The great cycle Greenway out in Mayo has seen huge visitor numbers, all over Ireland there are reasons to be optimistic.”
Indeed there was notable optimism amongst those who were represented at the Irish stand. Operators like the Carlton Hotel Group, Abbey Tours and Dalata were amongst the dozens of Irish exhibitors at the event, which is just another element which Tourism Ireland has helped promote Ireland through. Now in its 33rd year, WTM is the largest B2B event in the global travel and tourism calendar, with almost 50,000 representatives of the industry from around the world and 3,000 influential international media in attendance. According to the organisers of WTM, about £1.6 billion’s worth of business was transacted at the event last year.
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Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “The large representation of our industry partners on the Tourism Ireland stand at WTM this year is extremely welcome and essential in the highly competitive global marketplace. Right now, we are preparing for a very special year in 2013 with The Gathering Ireland, the biggest and most ambitious tourism-led event ever held in Ireland, which will provide fresh and compelling reasons for people in Britain and across the world to visit.”
The atmosphere at WTM was that of exceedingly tangible optimism, with the last push for the Gathering really taking hold. As tourism figures continue to bounce back, too, there followed fantastic news of airline deals done over the course of the few days. A week prior to WTM, American Airlines announced a new summer route from New York to Dublin. “This announcement is further confirmation of American's long-term plan to enhance its global network. We have over 550 new aircraft on order and we are responding to demand in each of our existing markets: growing our network and increasing frequencies where our customers require it,” said Graham Bell, American's Sales Director UK and Ireland. Then came news of a new United service between Shannon Airport and Chicago, and the return of the US Airways Philadelphia to Shannon service.
The recovery is certainly not complete, and we can only estimate the level of interest in Ireland next year, but with the push so emphatic, and the hard work so evident, we can at least be comfortable that 2013 was not under thought or driven at half speed. Let’s all wait and see just how the Gathering 2013 goes…