Ireland has been named “best potential destination” for 2014 at an awards ceremony in China organised by Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agent. The fifth annual Ctrip ‘Best Tourism Destination’ awards ceremony took place over the weekend in Shanghai – with Ireland taking the top spot for the destination offering the most potential for Chinese travellers, beating off strong competition in the same category from Turkey, Sweden, South Africa, Dubai, Kenya and Queensland.
Ctrip is China’s largest online travel agency and one of the best-known tourism brands in the country, offering travel services to some 90+ million members. Over the past two months, almost three million of those members took part in the online Ctrip survey, nominating their favourite travel destinations. The award was presented to Tourism Ireland at a ceremony in Shanghai, attended by about 300 travel industry leaders from around China, including tour operators, travel agents, airlines and travel media. Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Ireland has been singled out for this award – which is certainly a positive indication of the increasing awareness of Ireland among Chinese travellers. We believe that this market represents a significant opportunity for Irish tourism and we are committed to growing visitor numbers from China – from approximately 17,000 visitors in 2012 to 50,000 per year, over the coming five years. I am confident that this award will enhance the reputation of the island of Ireland and help to attract more Chinese visitors in 2014 and beyond.” Outbound travel from China has grown at an exceptionally high rate over recent years, with the number of international trips growing significantly and forecasts for the next decade suggesting an even greater rise. With offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu, Tourism Ireland’s programme of promotions in China involves co-operative activity with influential intermediaries such as airlines and tour operators, to ensure Ireland features prominently in their itineraries and travel brochures; familiarisation visits for travel agents and tour operators around the island of Ireland; as well as working closely with travel and lifestyle journalists, to ensure they write or broadcast extensively about the island of Ireland. Tourism Ireland in China has a particularly busy programme of activity in the pipeline for the coming weeks, in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day. This will culminate in the ‘greening’ of the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower in Shanghai and the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel old and new towers, also in Shanghai, on 17 March. A special Ireland Family Day in Huaihai Park, Shanghai, on 15 March, organised in conjunction with Bord Bia will highlight our world-class food offering; and Tourism Ireland is also co-operating with Bord Bia on an online promotion with Tmall (an online ‘shopping mall’). Tourism Ireland will sponsor the Altan concert in Beijing on 16 March. And a crew from CCTV (China Central Television – a national station which broadcasts in most of the country) will visit Ireland to film the destination and various St Patrick’s Day activities. 2013 was a record year for visitor numbers from Ireland’s long-haul markets; and indications for 2014 are also positive. In terms of access to Ireland from China, Etihad Airways operates from Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu to Dublin – via Abu Dhabi; Etihad will double its current daily service to Dublin, from 15 July this year. Emirates also connects Dublin with four Chinese cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong – transferring via Dubai. Emirates will also double its daily flights to Dublin, from 1 September 2014. Image: Iris Wang, Tourism Ireland, with the award for “best potential destination” at the fifth annual Ctrip ‘best tourism destination’ awards ceremony in Shanghai.