The Irish tourism industry is well-placed to capitalise on €74 billion spent by 83 million Chinese tourists last year. As part of a drive to attract greater numbers of Chinese travellers to Ireland, Tourism Ireland is preparing to lead its largest ever trade mission to China next month.
With luxury retail shopping emerging as the predominant attraction for Chinese tourists, 20 businesses ranging from the Guinness Storehouse to Kildare Village will take part in an effort to further raise Ireland's burgeoning profile in China.
Niall Gibbons, Tourism Ireland's CEO, told the Irish Times that the market has substantial capacity to grow, expecting numbers of Chinese visitors to Ireland to increase from an estimated 19,000 to 50,000 between now and 2017. However, he emphasised that work remained to be done regarding the promotion of Ireland within China: “Riverdance has gone down very well. There is some familiarity with the green island, but other than that we are starting from a blank canvas.”
China has the fastest-growing tourism market globally, according to the UN's World Tourist Organisation, and is officially the world's biggest spender on travel abroad. Thanks to the introduction of the Irish visa waiver programme over two years ago, Chinese travel to Ireland has become far easier, although a direct flight route between the two countries would boost visitor numbers significantly.