World landmarks to go green for St Patrick

Thu, Feb 17, 2011, 00:00

THE LONDON Eye, Table Mountain in South Africa, the Empire State Building and the Manneken Pis in Brussels are some of the famed landmarks “going green” this year to mark St Patrick’s Day.

The lighting up of these attractions in honour of our patron saint will kick off a €28 million promotional drive by Tourism Ireland.

Its chief executive Niall Gibbons said this was the biggest spring promotion Tourism Ireland had undertaken, while the promotions surrounding St Patrick’s Day would also be the biggest.

Mr Gibbons said 2011 was “about getting back on the pattern to growth”. Visitor numbers were down by 15 per cent last year.

He said a key event would be a St Patrick’s Day reception at the Palace of Westminster, attended by British prime minister David Cameron.

Britain is Ireland’s most important tourism market but the number of British visitors coming here fell by 18 per cent last year.

Tourism Ireland’s British budget has increased by 30 per cent this year. The organisation will begin a television advertising campaign in Britain next month, using channels such as ITV and Channel 4.

The campaign would be seen by 17 million potential holidaymakers, Mr Gibbons said, and the advertisements would continue until October to reflect very late booking trends.

Mr Gibbons said Ireland had received very valuable free publicity recently when Terry Wogan’s BBC programme on Ireland attracted 8.5 million viewers. Feargal Keane’s The Story of Irelandwill also air on BBC later this year.

Mr Gibbons said getting permission to train a green light on the world’s best-known tourist attractions was a major coup, and showed the great affection felt for Ireland worldwide. The total project cost less than €6,000, he said.

As well as being lit in green, the Manneken Pis statue in central Brussels will also wear some Irish tweed in honour of St Patrick.

Other attractions going green for Ireland will include the fountains at the White House in Washington, Auckland’s Sky Tower, the Chicago river and the San Antonio river in Texas.

Asked whether the project made a difference to tourism numbers, Mr Gibbons said it built on the Ireland brand.

“You can never say how many tourists come because the London Eye is green, but at the end of the day it’s part of an overall strong message that Ireland is here, we’re a very small country geographically but we have a very big spread in terms of diaspora,” he continued.

Tourism Ireland had not seen any discernible change in travel patterns as a result of the negative headlines generated by the banking crisis in recent months, he added. “If anything, there’s probably more of a perception that Ireland is going to offer better value for money,” he said. “We have to turn this disadvantage that’s out there on the global stage into a positive from a tourism perspective.”

Mr Gibbons said Tourism Ireland was also working with the Department of Justice to ease visa restrictions for tourists wishing to travel from countries such as India and China.

“We are now looking at putting in place a structure whereby Tourism Ireland will play a much more proactive and positive role in working with tour operators in China to sell Ireland,” he said.