London Eye, Empire State Building and Opera House give green light to Irish tourism push

Wed, Feb 10, 2010, 00:00

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS such as the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and the Empire State Building will turn green to mark St Patrick’s Day, Tourism Ireland said yesterday.

Its chief executive Niall Gibbons said it was a “major coup” to get permission to light up these buildings in honour of our patron saint. “The agreement to allow us to ‘green’ such iconic buildings and attractions must be a first for any destination and clearly illustrates the goodwill that the Ireland brand generates across the world,” he said.

The CN Tower in Toronto, which is the highest tower in the world, will also turn green, as will the Chicago river, the San Antonio river in Texas and the fountains at the White House in Washington.

Tourism Ireland, which promotes the island of Ireland overseas, is investing €1 million on activities promoting St Patrick’s Day in 26 cities this year.

Mr Gibbons said the greening of the buildings cost surprisingly little. He said only the London Eye had charged a fee – €5,000 – to allow the lighting to take place.

In Germany it will organise promotions similar to “flash mobs” in Dusseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt, where a large group of people will assemble suddenly in a public place and provide Irish entertainment before quickly dispersing.

Tourism Ireland will also project images of Ireland on to buildings during rush hours in Munich and Cologne during St Patrick’s week.

It is aiming to make the St Patrick’s celebrations one of the biggest consumer events in Britain in the first three months of this year.

It will have more than 100 Irish tourism representatives working on St Patrick’s celebrations and it will piggyback on a Riverdance tour of Britain.

It will also target commuters at nine railway stations in England and Scotland, offering goody bags and special promotions.

Irish events will also be held in emerging markets such as Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai and Bangalore.

“Over 70 million people around the world claim links with the island of Ireland, and St Patrick’s Day is a truly unique opportunity to showcase our wonderful tourism product to a huge audience across the globe, as people instantly identify St Patrick’s Day with Ireland,” Mr Gibbons said.

He said the promotions should result in “saturation coverage” in the media and were an integral part of the €26 million drive for the first six months of the year, aimed at restoring overseas tourism to growth in 2010.

While world tourism forecaster Tourism Economics has predicted a 2 per cent fall in tourists coming here this year, Mr Gibbons said Tourism Ireland was optimistic that it could achieve 3 per cent growth.

Meanwhile, Fáilte Ireland, which works with tourism providers in the Republic, said it had made good progress with Iarnród Éireann in putting a free travel scheme in place for older tourists.

The subsidised scheme was announced in the last budget and a spokesman said it was expected to be in place before the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.