Largest trade mission ever visits China ahead of direct flights next month
Tourism Ireland targets 175,000 Chinese visitors by 2025 with 29-strong delegation
Catherine O’Grady Powers runs Glen Keen Farm and they offer Chinese people the opportunity for an authentic sheep-farming experience with shepherding, sheep-shearing, wool-dyeing and turf-cutting
Next month’s introduction of direct flights to Dublin from Beijing and Hong Kong, combined with new attractions such as farm visits, will provide a major boost to tourist numbers from China to 175,000 per year, said Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland.
A delegation of 29 senior representatives from 24 tourism enterprises from around the island of Ireland is taking part in the mission, which will take in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
Next month, Cathay Pacific will start direct flights to Dublin from Hong Kong, and Hainan Airlines will introduce direct flights from Beijing, and the sales mission will hold talks on how to maximise marketing the flights to boost tourism to the largest outbound travel market in the world.
In all, this represents around 1,700 airline seats each week for the first time ever from the Asia Pacific region to Ireland.
“In 2017, we welcomed 70,000 from China, and numbers are increasing at about 15 per cent per annum,” Mr Gibbons told The Irish Times on the fringes of a reception to welcome the delegation at the Irish embassy in Beijing.
The target of 175,000 by 2025 represents an increase of 150 per cent on 2017, and things will really ratchet up with the introduction of direct flights from Beijing and Hong Kong.
“The profile of Chinese visitors is changing . . . when I first starting coming in 2006 it was all approved destination status groups in coaches, now it’s moving more towards independent travel and there is a higher end of Chinese visitors that is coming as well,” said Mr Gibbons.
Chinese tourists are also booking more and more online, and organisations such as C-Trip are becoming very important. And another major selling point is the British Irish visa scheme that allows Chinese nationals to visit both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, using a single visa.
Paul Carty, managing director of Guinness Storehouse, said the middle market is growing and provides great potential for Ireland. The Storehouse had 47,000 visitors last year, out of 70,000 total, and has two full-time Chinese-speaking staff. The maps, audio guides and websites are in Chinese and the menus cater for Chinese tastes.
“I think the market has the potential to quadruple in the next four or five years, particularly with the direct flights,” said Mr Carty.
Catherine O’Grady Powers runs Glen Keen Farm and they offer Chinese people the opportunity for an authentic sheep-farming experience, with shepherding, sheep-shearing, wool-dying and turf-cutting.
After she attended a tourism trade show in Shanghai last year, the farm had 100 visitors from China.
“We’re really excited about China, we partnered with Westport House and Hotel Westport. We completed the ‘China Ready’ training programme and adapted our visitor experiences to coincide with providing an appropriate welcome for Asia visitors. We’re all about the home-from-home experience,” said Ms O’Grady Powers.