Ireland hopes direct flights will open it up to Chinese tourists
Author: CSEBA / China Daily
27th January 2018
DUBLIN - Ireland expects to welcome 100,000 Chinese tourists per year after the first direct air link between the country and China gets off the ground this June.

Cathay Pacific will fly between Hong Kong and Dublin four times a week.

Tourism Ireland, the national tourism board, said the connection will mean Chinese visitors can travel directly to Ireland without going via the United Kingdom or continental Europe.

Last year, around 70,000 Chinese travelers visited Ireland.

James Kenny, Tourism Ireland's China manager predicts there will be a big increase in visits.

"We expect to see a considerable increase in visitor numbers and expect to break the 100,000 barrier in the not so distant future with the launch of direct flights," he said.

Chinese tourists are among the biggest spenders among international tourists and the market is an important one for Tourism Ireland. Kenny said Ireland has not yet reached its potential, despite double-digit growth every year for some time.

"To prepare for this, we initiated a China-ready program last year and the Irish tourism industry is highly engaged in training for such aspects as language, culture, routes to market, food and drink, to welcome the increasing number of Chinese visitors," he said.

While an air access is crucial for island destinations, Kenny believes awareness is another important factor and said the organization is working hard to raise awareness of Ireland in China through online and offline marketing campaigns.

"Our extensive marketing campaign across the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong highlight the key attractions on the island of Ireland," he said. Among them is the landscape, the Wild Atlantic Way, which bills itself as the longest coastal driving route in the world, and film locations for both Game of Thrones and Star Wars.

Kenny pointed out that many of the attractions were experienced by Gao Xiaosong, a popular Chinese talk show host who visited Ireland last September. Gao's Morning Call programs and subsequent competitions have raised awareness of Ireland, Kenny said.

The new flight connection is also a welcoming development as Ireland seeks to diversify its tourism sources in preparation for the UK's departure from the European Union.

Mary Rose Burke, chief executive of the Dublin chamber of commerce, said it was not clear what Brexit will mean for Irish tourism because the UK is its biggest source of tourists.

"As we await clarity on how Britain's decision to leave the European Union will play out, it is important for companies to consider opportunities in new markets," she said.

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